A coalition of over 60 organisations, brought together by the National Care Forum (NCF), urge the government to ensure new national lockdown does not include locking out care home visitors.

The NCF – the leading member association for not-for-profit social care providers – sent an open letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Helen Whately, Minister for Care, calling for an assurance that care homes will be supported to enable visits, now and in the future.

The letter calls on the government to adopt this position in any new regulations it is drafting for the care sector, both during the national lockdown and its aftermath.

Visitors play a fundamental role in the care of residents

Visitors are more than people who make social calls into a care home. Often they are residents spouses, children or friends. Furthermore, they play a fundamental role in their everyday care.

The isolation caused by blanket bans on visiting in care homes is intrinsically harmful. Locking down care homes in March was an emergency response to the global pandemic caused by a new, unknown virus. Eight months on, more is understood about the risks of transmission and measures are in place to keep people safe.

People in care homes and their loved ones in the community have fundamental human rights, both as individuals and as a community; a ban on visiting denies those rights.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum says:

“We all understand that visiting in care homes is a very human balancing act… However, we must balance the risk of harm from COVID-19 with the risk of harm from isolation and physical, mental, emotional deterioration.

“The coalition has a clear set of asks around testing of visitors and the designation of one person (as a minimum) per resident as a key visitor, as well as enabling every care home to manage visiting in the way that best works for them, with help to create safe COVID-19 visiting spaces. We must work together at pace to have this in place by the end of November. None of this is easy, but nothing that matters ever is.”

The government has announced a pilot around testing visitors. However, those living in care homes need visits now. The current tiered approach has already placed 50% of care homes and their residents under a default of blanket visiting restrictions. This cannot remain the accepted position.

Read the full list of signatories and find useful advice on visiting on the NCF site.