The government has updated its guidance on visiting care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic. This guidance confirms that each care home is responsible for setting the visiting policy in that home. Solihull Council and NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group are working closely with Solihull care homes so they can offer visits as safely as possible, once arrangements are in place. Some preparatory work is needed before visiting can re-start.
The national guidance states that "visiting should be supported and enabled wherever it is possible to do so safely – in line with this guidance and within a care home environment that takes proportionate steps to manage risks’. The rapid (lateral flow) testing kits that will support increased visiting will not be available straight away and are expected over the coming weeks. Care homes need to train staff quickly to deliver these tests, which will be used with visitors.
The guidance is clear that care homes must have other arrangements in place before receiving visitors. The homes are working as quickly as they can to put in place all the necessary arrangements and it is especially important they prepare properly, as Solihull is a Tier 3 area. The guidance also confirms that in the event of an outbreak, visiting should be suspended immediately except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life.
Jenny Wood, Director of Adult Care and Support at Solihull Council, said: "While this planned return to visiting loved ones is really welcome news, we are asking people to be patient with care homes in Solihull as they first prepare to put in place the new arrangements. It is easy to underestimate how much work is involved, but it is actually going to be an incredible achievement. With additional staff training, site preparation, new arrangements for booking and logging visitors, support for visitors to put on the appropriate PPE and implementation of the new testing arrangements, there is a lot to do. Our thanks and acknowledgement goes out to all care home staff across Solihull for the work they are doing to achieve this. When the arrangements for visiting are in place at each care home, including the visitor testing, the care homes will let families know by letter or email."
Ruth Tennant, Solihull’s Director of Public Health, added: "We appreciate the significant emotional impacts on care home residents and families as a result of the measures in place to protect homes from the devastating effects of Covid-19. Testing will help reduce the risk but no test is perfect and it is also only designed to check if someone has clear evidence of Covid-19 on the day the test is done. It is therefore really important that visitors who have symptoms do not visit and that visitors with a negative test on the day of their visit stick strictly with the instructions they are given by the care home. This includes using the PPE provided, rigorous handwashing and any other measures that are advised. This will minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19 and allow visits to take place as safely as possible."
Helen Jenkinson, Chief Nurse, NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, explained: "Solihull care homes are also keen to remind families and friends that the safety of their residents remains their priority. Care homes will still be taking a measured approach to receiving visitors in a safe way, following robust infection prevention measures and taking into account their specific circumstances as well as the layout of their home and the individual needs of their residents and staff.
"We are immensely grateful to all care home staff in Solihull who continue to work incredibly hard to protect some of our most vulnerable friends and family members through very difficult times."
Jenny Wood, Director of Adult Care and Support, Solihull Council
Ruth Tennant, Director of Public Health, Solihull Council
Helen Jenkinson, Chief Nurse, NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group