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Dear Friends,

Yesterday evening new guidance was issued about care home visiting post-lockdown. This sets out more details of a new scheme to roll out in-home testing for care home visitors.
For the time being, the Home of Comfort will continue with our current visiting policy while we wait to hear when we will receive these rapid tests (often called LFT or Lateral Flow Tests).

We have not had much time to review how this new scheme works, but we do know that there are several things we will need to figure out before we can introduce it here. There are restrictions on how visitors can enter and move around the building, including rules on a room which must be designated for visitors to use when they take a test and where they have to wait for their result. This will limit the number of tests we are able to carry out every day.
We will be getting advice from our Director of Public Health on this scheme during our weekly briefing calls from the Portsmouth CCG Care Home Team, and from all of the care home membership groups we belong to, to help us try to work out a routine which we can practically implement here.

The LFT tests are a way of screening visitors before they come into the home and reducing the risk of an infected person bringing Covid with them. The new scheme does allow for visits to take place in resident’s rooms and for closer contact between the resident and the visitor. This should mean visits can be more private and last a bit longer than at present. However, we are afraid there will still be many restrictions, for example we will not be able to offer you refreshments while you are here, and visits will only be possible by appointment.

In addition, visitors will required to wear PPE at all times during the visit, including masks and gloves, and the restrictions on the number of visitors remain to minimise the number of different people who come into the home; each resident may nominate no more than 2 people to be their regular visitors. We know this is very difficult for many of our residents, and for their friends and families.
The Home will continue to need to have personalised visiting plans and risk assessments for each resident and their regular visitors, and to carry out a risk assessment before each visit.

Based on what we have heard today about the training our staff will have to undertake, we do not expect to be set up for these visits for several weeks. We expect to have a considerable amount of planning and preparation to do, and we will do our best to get this done as soon as we can, but we are also wary of setting unrealistic expectations as we must not let these preparations impact on the day to day care our staff are giving. We know that many of you will be hoping to come in as soon as you can, and we understand how much it will mean to be able to hold the hands of your loved ones again.

In the meantime we are starting to hold Christmas themed activities, which will take place in much smaller groups than usual this year, but rest assured we will have our full quota of festivity, tinsel and mince pies.  

Today has brought the very welcome news that the UK regulator has approved a vaccine against Covid-19. The first people to receive this vaccination will receive it next week in a number of major hospitals. The government has committed to giving priority to care home residents and staff, but we do not yet know when and how that will happen; You may be aware that a number of different vaccines are in late stage trial, and because this vaccine (an ‘mRNA’ vaccine) is quite delicate, it would be easier to use one of the others – if enough evidence can be presented that one is safe within the next few weeks.

We expect that things might happen very quickly once a decision is made, and at that point we will need to ask every resident (and in many cases their next of kin) whether they want to receive a vaccine. If you have any questions in the meantime please do ask; we may not know the answers but we will do our best to find out.

Wish best wishes to you all,
From all of us at the Home of Comfort 
Links if you would like to read further:
National Winter Plan for Adult Social Care
Care Home Visiting Guidance
Home of Comfort’s Current Visiting Policy
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