Care Home visitor Covid testing pilot scheme launched

A pilot scheme to provide Covid-19 tests to designated friends and family of those living in care homes has been launched in 30 care homes across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon.

The trial is being undertaken in areas where transmission of coronavirus is lower, but the aim is then to roll the programme out more widely across the country in December.

The hope is that, if successful, the trial will pave the way for the resumption of indoor visits and even allow physical contact between care home residents and their loved ones.

Visitors will be offered either the widely used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which can be taken at home, or the new lateral flow tests which can be administered at care homes and have a 30-minute turn-around time.

When combined with other infection prevention and control (IPC) measures such as personal protective equipment, the testing system would support meaningful visits, including where possible indoor visits without a screen.

Nursing Times has reported that visitors who have a negative test and are wearing appropriate PPE may also be permitted to have physical contact with their loved once, including providing personal care, holding hands and a hug.

Care minister, Helen Whately said: “The pandemic has torn many lives apart but few have been more affected than people living in care homes and their families.

“I know visits from loved ones are what makes life worth living for many care home residents, yet these have been few and far between over the last few months.”

She noted that while visits with loved ones through a screen or window “are better than nothing for many”, they were “too confusing or simply impossible for people with advanced dementia”.

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at Alzheimer’s Society, welcomed the pilot and said,

We’re pleased to finally have the details of the pilot, and it’s great to see the Government listening to our calls for recognition of the integral role that family carers play in supporting their loved ones with dementia.”

“Testing is the solution – we appreciate the Ministers’ recognition that screens and windows just don’t work for people with dementia and their families. But we worry it is too little too late for the desperate families who have been waiting 8 months to visit their loved ones.

The promise of care home visitors being at the front of the line to get more ring-fenced tests as the new ones become available must fast become reality, as we simply can’t afford for the misery, heartache and deaths to continue.