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Cornwall care homes among first in country to trial regular testing for safe family visits

Family members or friends of residents in four care homes in Cornwall are being given regular Covid testing so they can visit their loved ones safely as part a new pilot.

King Charles Court in Falmouth, Roseland Court in Tregony, North Hill in St Austell and Hillcrest House in Looe are among 20 residential care homes across the country taking part in the government trial to reunite residents with their relatives and friends.

Visiting restrictions put in place during the pandemic to control Coronavirus have had a significant impact on care home residents being able to have regular visits from their loved ones.

The new trial run by the Department of Health and Social Care started last week and offers regular testing to one designated family member or friend per resident at the pilot care homes, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – support safe visits. 

These enable, where possible, indoor visits while reducing the risk to care home residents, staff and visitors. 

Visitors are being offered new, rapid, lateral flow tests (LFTs), which can be administered in person at the care homes before a visit. 

The pilot is taking place in local authorities with lower transmission rates to ensure it can be done as safely as possible and care staff are being trained to ensure tests are administered safely and accurately.

If successful, and dependent on latest transmission rates data, the trial would be rolled out more widely in December in time for Christmas. 

Rob Rotchell, Cornwall’s Cabinet Member for Adults, said: “We know how heart-breaking it has been for some of our care home residents not to have that physical, face-to-face contact with their family members because of the visiting restrictions, so having the ability to have regular testing to enable safe visiting will make such a difference to our most vulnerable residents and their relatives and friends. My own mum spent her last few years living in a care home and I absolutely understand how important family visits were to her.

“Throughout the pandemic we have worked with our care homes to advise and support on Covid-safe visiting so they can balance allowing residents to maintain regular contact with their loved ones while ensuring their safety.”

Melissa Jones, King Charles Court resident manager, said: “We were thrilled to be part of the new testing of visitors pilot and have already seen many long overdue emotional and happy reunions. The positive impact this has already had on our residents’ mental wellbeing is immeasurable.

“We hope that this service will be rolled out to all care homes as soon as possible.”

David Smith, owner of North Hill Nursing Home, said: "Everyone at North Hill Nursing Home are very pleased to be involved in the pilot project to allow safe visiting to take place. It will allow personal contact with residents involved and will transform the quality of life of our residents and their families."

Michelle Wray, Home Manager of Roseland Court Care Home, said: “We are thrilled to be involved in the Department of Health and Social Care’s pilot to test care home visitors.

“This pilot means that residents can hug their loved ones after such a long time, and it is incredible to see the joy that these reunions bring. Safe and comfortable visits are so important, and we can’t wait to reunite more residents with their families.”

Story posted November 23, 2020