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Care Home Visits During a Pandemic: Can Rapid Testing Help?


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Starting today, the Government is trialing a new scheme to introduce rapid Covid-19 testing so that care home residents can safely receive visitors.

In the eight months since the first lockdown, care home residents have been amongst the most vulnerable groups in the country: in England and Wales alone, nearly 17,000 residents have died, with the majority during the first wave. This shocking figure is made all the more sobering by the fact that there are approximately 400,000 care home residents in the whole of the UK, suggesting a higher level of mortality amongst this elderly and frail demographic.

To help shield care home residents (and the staff looking after them), visits were largely banned or significantly scaled back. This unfortunately had many knock-on effects on those who needed these visits on welfare grounds, including residents with dementia, learning disability or autism, or those approaching the end of life.

Taking into account the above concerns, and mixing in what we know now about testing and treatments, the case for reintroducing regular visits (albeit cautiously) in care homes is strong. This has led to the Government introducing specific guidelines for how care home visits can be conducted during the current lockdown.

The trial beginning today will cover four local authorities in areas of lower prevalence, and includes 30 care homes. It is hoped that a successful outcome will enable care homes to allow their residents regular visitors, all while keeping them, and the staff that work there, safe.

We will keep an eye on how the trial is progressing, as it will have major implications on what the ‘new normal’ for care homes will be during this pandemic.

Please note that the views expressed here are those of the author alone and not necessarily those of any other person or organisation

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