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Care Home visits, Lockdown 2

3rd November 2020.

So, another lockdown, for at least 4 weeks. The government rejected the calls of their own scientists and Keir Starmer for a short, sharp lockdown over half-term when schools could have been shut, despite all the evidence pointing to the infection rates doubling every 9 days. So now we have a long, painful lockdown to come.

People tell me ‘You politicians are all the same. Stop playing politics with a pandemic.’ But this U turn is just one of the many that show that responsible opposition is about supporting sensible measures, but also pointing out where the government is getting it wrong so they can put it right. If the government fails to listen and co-operate, then they need to be held accountable for their mistakes, which can be so costly in lives, as well as financially.

The Council has again requested to use the £28 million left over from the business grant pot from the last lockdown for businesses in Cornwall that have missed out. Business grants will be lower this time at between £1-3,000 per month. We need local discretion to be given and used to make sure that money gets to where it is really needed. We also desperately need this time to build up our local test, trace and isolate systems as even the government has now accepted that the national Serco one isn’t working. Cornwall has strong foundations to do this.

My mum has gone into hospital today for an operation. I am jittery because I can’t get upcountry to see her now and my father isn’t allowed to visit in hospital. It made me think about all the people with relatives in hospitals and care homes who haven’t been able to see them for such a long time. Face to face visits were banned during the last lockdown. There are now guidelines on visiting, but different care providers have implemented them differently and many are only seeing their loved ones through a window, if at all.

The Alzheimer's Society warned that increasing numbers of people with dementia faced "giving up on life, not understanding what is going on or why they're not seeing the people they love and experiencing the things they live for."

On 13 October, Social Care Minister Helen Whately, said a trial would take place in which a relative or friend would be treated as a key worker so they could safely visit. They would have to abide by the same rules as staff when it came to weekly testing and wearing PPE.

However, the minister has not yet made good on her promise to start the pilot scheme, or make the tests that would be required available. Currently, care sector testing relies on the creaking Pillar 2 tests that can take many days to get results.

As we head into Lockdown 2, the Government still hasn’t confirmed if or how the guidelines will change again. The National Care Forum has brought together a coalition of 60 organisations who have written to Government with recommendations on how to “reset the dial to enable visiting to become the default position at this difficult time”.

The decisions taken now about visiting are life changing, and potentially life limiting for some. Care homes need to be supported to enable visits by families and loved ones so that residents can safely live their best possible life.

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