A new pilot scheme aims to remedy care home visitation restrictions by providing regular COVID-19 tests for friends and families of care home residents.
Launching on Monday, the Government scheme will take place in 20 care homes across Cornwall, Devon and Hampshire, with plans to expand the scheme into other areas of the country before Christmas. The scheme is an initial part of mass testing across the country.
Care home residents have been one of the highest priorities during the Coronavirus pandemic as rates of infections and deaths have been highest among the elderly.
As a result, care homes have had stringent restrictions in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Current Government guidelines state a maximum of 2 constant visitors per resident.
Regulations like these have meant many care home residents simply do not have access to the critical physical and mental support friends and family provide.
The tests will be available to one friend or relative per resident. A total of 675 lateral flow tests will be given to each care home which, when used in combination with personal protective equipment, aims to end visitation restrictions.
“I know how heartbreaking restricting visits to care homes has been, not only for residents – many of whom will feel disoriented and confused by the situation – but also their loved ones who aren’t able to simply hug each other to support them in this difficult time," said Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.
“By respecting social distancing and staying at home as much as possible we will help reunite families and friends with loved ones in care homes as quickly as possible.”
The scheme has been praised by mental health charities, with the Alzheimer's Society saying it recognises the important role of carers in providing support for loved ones with dementia.
However, the charity also has concerns, saying it worries “it is too little too late for the desperate families who have been waiting eight months to visit their loved ones."
“We have to recognise the terrible mental health toll on people with dementia simply giving up on life as well as on the many thousands of grieving families who haven’t been able to be with their loved ones in their last months, weeks and days, and who will never be able to get that precious time back.”