Covid-19: Care homes and my recommendation to suspend visiting
Sarah Scott, Director of Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, addresses some of your concerns and anxieties around the recent recommendation to suspend care home visiting.
I felt that it was important that I personally address some of your concerns and anxieties around the recent recommendation to suspend care home visiting.
Whilst I have indicated that normal visiting should be suspended, I have no desire to keep families and friends apart any longer than is necessary. We are urgently working on finding ways that we can help strengthen infection prevention control measures that could allow visiting to recommence. We are not quite there yet but will review the situation every week. Under certain circumstances, care homes can allow visits, for example where home managers feel a visit is critical to health and wellbeing and can be managed safely.
I have heard people ask: “why now?”, “we aren’t in a high risk tier?" This wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly, but one I believe is necessary to help slow the spread of infection and make sure we are protecting our most vulnerable residents.
We know that Covid-19 affects our older population the most, and we know that there were a number of cases and sadly deaths linked to Covid-19, in the county’s care homes during the first wave.
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to allow visitors, and in what circumstances, sits with home managers. Some homes will have already stopped visiting all together – some will have found safe ways to continue in some capacity. To help our care homes asses the risks, we have provided guidance on our website: https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/covid-19-information-and-advice/visiting-guidance-for-residential-care/
Care homes can still allow visiting in some circumstances like end of life, and to ensure people still get any outside professional support they need, and we are also looking at safe ways we could allow some visiting to continue for example perspex screens and additional PPE but we need to make sure these are safe and so in the meantime, this is the decision I have had to make.
I know how hard it is to be told that you cannot see your relatives but the more people that go in and out of homes, the greater the risk of Covid getting in, which puts residents and staff at a greatly increased risk.
I want to assure you that we are working this through with county care homes and other providers to ensure that you can keep in touch with your loved ones – we understand how important this is for the mental health and wellbeing of them and you.
The most important thing you can do is to continue to follow the main public health advice:
- wear a face covering (especially on public transports and in pubs and restaurants),
- wash your hands (we should all be doing this anyway) and;
- keep your distance - stick to six people
I want to thank all of our county’s care providers for everything they are doing, for each other, and the people they look after – as well as the residents, their friends and families for the sacrifices they are making to help keep everyone safe at this difficult time.
Sarah Scott, Director of Public Health