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The Roadmap and Visits

Dear Friends,
We have spent some time today reading the details of the government’s announcement yesterday and starting to prepare for the new visiting rules which will start on 8th March.
Before then, we will get some formal guidance (promised to us next week), and once that has been published the local care home support team will be able to advise us on ways we can practically implement the guidance, and answer any questions we have. For the time being we wanted to share what we know so far with you all.

In Step 1 of the relaxation of restrictions, which will happen on the 8th of March, care homes residents will be able to nominate one person to visit them regularly indoors. Homes will need to use the LFD rapid test kits which we currently use to test staff twice weekly to test the visitor, who will also need to wear ‘appropriate PPE’.
The visitor will not need to socially distance from the resident, but we are not sure how much contact will be allowed; several government ministers have talked about being able to hold hands, but the press release states that visitors will have to ‘avoid close contact’. We hope the official guidance will give us a better idea what that means.
Until we have the guidance we are guessing, but we assume that the system of testing will be similar to that proposed in December (but not put into use because of the second lockdown). This means that each visitor will need to distance from all of the Home’s staff and residents apart from the person they have come to see while they are in the Home. We will need to designate a specific room where the testing will be done, and visitors will have to wait there while their test is processed. We will also need to have a designated entrance and separate exit for the nominated visitors, and we will need a member of staff to carry out the test. We might also be required to supervise the visit, which we wouldn’t expect to mean someone has to be present at all times, but more likely that visitors will not be allowed to move around the Home unaccompanied.
This would be quite burdensome for the Home, and limit the number of visits that we can practically manage during the week. The need to distance from others would mean that a visitor can only be in the resident’s room, and would need to leave the Home if staff need to spend time in that room, for example to provide personal care or support with feeding. We also think that, unfortunately, we will not yet be able to allow visitors to use the Home’s toilets or to provide refreshments to them.

At the moment, we think it is realistic that we will be able to manage to offer one visit from each resident’s nominated visitor most weeks. We will do our very best to offer visit appointments at convenient times but we may not be able to work around everybody’s availability and the routine of the home, for example mealtimes.
We know that for many of our residents having to select a single person to visit them is going to be very difficult, and that it will be hard for their friends and families also. Unfortunately this is very clearly stated in the press release and the covid plan, and we don’t expect it to change until at least the 12th April as the covid plan document published yesterday includes the following statement:
(Para 116.) At Step 2, the Government will take a decision on extending the number of care home visitors to two per resident and set out a plan for the next phase of visits.
We are hoping to be able to offer a small number of appointments for distanced visits (in the conservatory using the screen, and perhaps over the coming months in the garden) to allow residents to receive visits from other people, but we do expect our capacity for these will be quite limited. We are aiming to recruit additional staff which we hope will help but it is important that we find the right people to work at Home of Comfort, and we will need to make sure that nothing detracts from the day to day care that the residents rely on us to provide.
The guidance we have had in the past and recent communications from the Care Quality Commission have emphasised the importance of an approach to planning visits which takes into account the needs and wishes of each resident as an individual, and the benefits to them of visiting arrangements. We know that the next few months will not be easy for anybody but we are hopeful that we are going to start to see improvements. It is certainly welcome that new cases of Covid in Portsmouth are continuing to fall.

We should be in touch again next week once we have had a chance to review the new guidance (when it comes) and update our policies. In the meantime, if you have any ideas or questions we would love to hear from you, though we ask you to understand that we may not have all of the answers.
Wish best wishes to you all,
From all of us at the Home of Comfort. 

Links if you would like to read further:
Government Press Release (Saturday) on the new Care Home Visiting scheme7
The Government’s Spring Covid Plan, which contains all of the details we have so far on the ‘roadmap’ for relaxing restrictions
(Section 5 is the section which relates to social care. There is also a handy diagram on P47-48 setting out the 4 different stages.)
The latest Covid figures from Portsmouth are here
You can also find regular updates from the Council Leader on twitter here (you do not need to have a twitter account to view his tweets)
JCVI Priority Groups Vaccination guidance
New Scientist explainer on vaccines (which includes a neat little video on vaccines in general)
National Winter Plan for Adult Social Care
Care Home Visiting Guidance
Home of Comfort’s Current Visiting Policy
Sign up to these newsletters (and join our facebook group if you wish) here
And our past newsletters are here

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