Designated visitors are to be given regular COVID-19 testing in order to reunite residents with family and friends in a pilot launched today, writes Bethany Hemsley.
Around 20 care homes across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon will take part in the trial, with a wider roll-out expected in December.
Regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – will support regular meaningful visits.
The trial aims to allow, where possible, indoor visits without a screen to take place while reducing the risk to care home residents, staff and visitors.
Visitors will be offered either PCR tests which they can do at home, or the new 30-minute rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs), which can be administered in person at care homes before a visit.
Care homes taking part in the pilot will initially receive a box of 675 LFTs, with more available as required.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Thanks to the expanding testing capacity we have in place we can now begin to trial a new way to allow safer visits to take place and prevent the spread of COVID-19. I must stress this is only possible if the public takes the right actions now to bring the transmission rate under control while national restrictions are in place.
“By respecting social distancing and staying at home as much as possible we will help reunite families and friends with loved ones in care homes as quickly as possible.”
Minister for Care Helen Whately added: “Each resident will be able to have one relative or friend who can be their ‘key visitor’ who will take a COVID test, and then be able to come for an indoor visit without a screen.
“As Christmas approaches, I want to bring an end to the pain of separation and help care homes bring families and loved ones together. The launch of visitor testing is a crucial step to making that happen.”
The pilot scheme comes as part of the adult social care winter plan to protect the vulnerable from COVID-19.
The winter plan also includes guidance for care homes on hospital discharges. In a letter addressed to directors of adult services, care providers are informed of the new requirements:
- Anyone discharged from hospital back into a care home must have a reported COVID-19 test result, which must be communicated to the care home prior to discharge
- Anyone with a COVID-19 positive test result must be discharged into an appropriate designated setting (i.e. that has the policies, procedures, equipment and training in place to maintain infection control and support the care needs of residents) and cared for there for the remainder of the required isolation period.