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North Yorkshire offers support to keep care home visits safe

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North Yorkshire welcomes the return of indoor care home visits and has set out a cautious and vigilant approach to keep people safe in a letter issued today to all care providers.

The County Council welcomes the Government’s guidance issued yesterday which sets out detail for the resumption of indoor visits from Monday March 8th. The council believes that visits by family and friends is vital to the wellbeing of their loved ones and is making every effort to ensure that visits can take place safely.

Since last Autumn, the Council has been working closely with care home residents, their families and friends and with care providers to support safe visiting and trips out, including designated visitor schemes, visitor pods, outdoors visits and window visits: www.northyorks.gov.uk/visiting – indeed, the County’s approach was largely shaped by the ideas of people who live and work in care and their loved ones.

“We believe it is important that everyone who lives in a care setting should be able to see their loved ones and to take trips out into the community if they want to”, said Cllr Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Adult Services and Health Integration. “Many providers have been working to support safe visits and this will step up a gear as indoor visits are allowed.

“Our job is to work with providers and give all the support we can to make sure this can be done safely to avoid any resurgence in Covid-19 infections.

“As before the lockdown, any arrangements for visits and trips must be consistent with national and local Covid-19 rules so that people are as safe as possible.”

As part of its four-stage road map for moving out of Covid-19 restrictions the Government has said it would re-introduce face to face indoor visits to care homes and that residents would be able to nominate a single named visitor and it would offer further clarity on the role of a ‘trusted person’ to support with personal care tasks.

There will also be additional testing provided to facilitate safer visits for residents in high-risk Supported Living and Extra Care settings.

“It is important that care homes exercise discretion based on their own circumstances; and that visiting arrangements are informed by undertaking individualized risk assessments working with residents and families” said Richard Webb, County Council director for Health and Adult Services.

“Every care home is different and the needs and requirements of every resident and their families are individual to them. Although rates have fallen significantly in North Yorkshire and are below the national average, infection rates and risks of contracting Covid-19 still vary across the county.

“We must be cautious to keep everyone safe because past experience shows that the easing of restrictions can also lead to an increase in cases. We are still under national restrictions and so we need to be cautious and to avoid becoming complacent.

“The national Covid-19 vaccination roll-out is also great news and the number of people who have received a vaccine so far is very encouraging. However, the vaccine’s main purpose is to prevent or reduce risk of death and serious illness. People who have been vaccinated can still catch or transmit Covid-19. New variants of Covid-19 may also be resistant to the vaccine and present new risks so we need to remain careful and vigilant.

“Everyone will need to co-operate to make indoor visiting a success. All visits will need to be planned and residents, families and friends are asked to be mindful that everyone will want their ‘fair turn’ for visits. This may initially limit the numbers of visits that are possible.”

In its letter, the County Council advises that all care homes should allow every resident to name one person who can come for a regular indoor visit and that visits should be long enough to be ‘meaningful’ – at least 30 minutes of face to face time, and ideally longer where possible.

If a resident lacks the capacity to decide who they want their named visitor to be, the care home will speak with their family and friends so they can decide what to do between them. The named visitor will need to take a rapid (lateral flow) test and return a negative result every time they visit.

  • Visitors will need to wear PPE (gloves, apron and surgical mask) and follow any other infection prevention and control measures required by the care home.
  • Indoor visits should wherever possible take place in a designated, well ventilated room which avoids or minimises visitors having to walk through a home and reduces the likelihood of contact with other residents.
  • Visitors should keep physical contact to a minimum. Visitors and residents may wish to hold hands, but should bear in mind that any contact increases the risk of transmission. There should not be close physical contact such as hugging because of the risk of infection.
  • Where practical, care homes should continue with the range of other visiting arrangements measures that they have put in place including separate visiting pods, use of window visits and virtual visits using technology.
  • Care homes can offer the “essential care giver” scheme for family and friends to be involved in personal care or support that cannot easily be provided by care home staff, or not without causing distress. This might include help with washing and dressing or where a resident is refusing to eat or where the person’s behaviour may be more challenging because of a dementia or complex disability.
  • Trips out for fresh air and exercise should be supported, bearing in mind the duty of care to keep people safe and well.
  • Visiting will cease in care settings during an outbreak except for ‘essential care givers’ and those visiting people who are, sadly, nearing the end of their life.

Any updates and all previous advice on visiting will continue to be posted on the County Council’s  dedicated webpage here: www.northyorks.gov.uk/visiting.

Mike Padgham, chair of the local provider organisation, The Independent Care Group, said: “We are pleased that indoor visits can resume as they are important for the health and wellbeing of care and nursing home residents and their families, who have been apart for too long.

“But we are also anxious to ensure that indoor visiting resumes carefully, with everyone following the guidelines so that we can keep our residents, their families and our staff safe.

“We must remain cautious, Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, and we all have to work together to ensure that visiting brings the enormous benefits that it undoubtedly will but without also bringing added risks.

“The support and guidance we are receiving from North Yorkshire County Council is very useful and we are working with them as we reintroduce visits.

“Residential and nursing homes are all different and all will be trying to introduce the new visiting regime as efficiently as they can whilst at the same time ensuring that they keep residents and staff as safe as possible.

“We do appeal for those visiting and residents to be patient and understanding as homes get to grips with new systems, from next week.”

Richard Webb added: “We want to thank people who live in care settings and for their families and friends for their patience during this most difficult and challenging time.  We all welcome this road map out of the restrictions and by continuing to work together, we hope that more people can see loved ones and that we begin to see some light at the end of a very long tunnel.”

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