Visits and the Census
As I write, we are still waiting for the government guidance which will set out how care homes should restart face to face visiting, supported by Lateral Flow Testing, following the announcement made on 20th February.
Neither care homes, nor the CCGs or local authorities that support us, have had any sight of drafts of this guidance, or advance warning about what will be in it. Our CCG have been very helpful in helping us prepare to restart visiting, but all of us are working on the basis of our best guesses of what will be in the guidance.
We know from the announcement that this will include:
We are expecting that:
- Each resident being able to nominate one person who can visit them by appointment.
- Testing of each visitor using an LFD test at the home prior to each visit. These tests require the visitor to take a swab of fluid from their throat and nose, and take about 35 minutes to give a result. We will need to obtain written consent for every test we do, and to register the result.
- Visitors will be required to wear appropriate PPE, though we don’t yet know what that will be. (We are planning for it to include an FFP2 mask of the type staff wear, gloves and a plastic apron, all of which the Home would provide.)
- Limited ‘close contact’ which we believe means visitors will be able to hold hands with residents, but not to hug them.
We are doing everything we can to prepare for visiting before we receive the guidance, but we cannot go ahead with visits until we have the guidance, and updated local guidance from our Director of Public Health. (Who will not get any advance sight of the national guidance.) We will also need to update our visiting policies and risk assessments.
- The Home will need to provide staff members to support the visits, including the testing and escorting visitors around the building. Initially at least, this is likely to mean visits supported by testing take place from Monday to Friday.
- Visitors will need to remain at a 2m distance from everyone apart from the resident they have come to see while they are inside the Home.
- Visitors will be able to see residents in their own rooms but in order to remain distanced they will not be able to remain in the Home while the resident receives care.
- The Home will need a dedicated space for visitors to isolate while they take their test and wait for the result.
- Visitors will need to move around the Home in one direction only, entering and leaving by different doors.
- We will be able to offer a limited number of distanced visits (in the conservatory) for residents who do not have a visitor who is able to come during the week or where there are other unusual circumstances.
These visits will involve a lot that is new for us and for our visitors and although we are doing our best to anticipate any problems, we know that being realistic things are bound to come up with we have not anticipated.
We are very mindful that everybody is keen to get visits going as quickly as we can, and to allow visitors to come in as often as we can, but we also feel that having to cancel a visit would be dreadful for everybody, so we are determined to start slowly and not to promise more than we might be able to achieve.
Based on the information we have at the moment, we are still hopeful of being able to start these new visits next week (though obviously we will not be able to confirm that until we have the new guidance), and if that is the case we intend to do our very best to offer one visit for each resident before the end of March.
Of course, we hope that we will be able to fit in many more appointments once we are all into the swing of things, and that many more visits will be possible, but we believe it is better to be honest with you all about what we think we can realistically commit to. We do not plan to make any appointments for second visits until everyone who wants one has had their first visit, and we have been able to review how that has gone.
We realise that for some residents and their loved ones, restarting visits is going to be quite challenging, and we know that we need to make sure that we are able to support them and you, particularly in the first few weeks as those first visits take place.
Over the next few days we will be working with residents and with you all to identify who will be the nominated visitor for each resident. If you have any questions we are happy to do our best to answer them.
On a non-Covid related topic (thank goodness!), you are probably aware that 2021 is a census year, and that all of us are required to complete a census form based on our location on March 21st. This year, it is possible to send in a return online.
Residents at the Home, like everyone else, are asked to fill in a census, and if you can, it would help us if you could complete a return, which you can do using a paper copy or an online code, either of which we can supply. If you would be able to do this, please do let Robin know.
As always we hope you are all well and we are looking forward to seeing some of you soon.
From all of us at the Home of Comfort.