The Government is currently consulting on whether or not people should be allowed to visit their friends or relatives in Care homes especially in Tier 3 area. Today I have asked Liverpool Council to respond to the Government consultation about care homes with a clear request to find ways of allowing visits by relatives and friends.
I am also the Deputy Chair of the Community Wellbeing Board of the Local Government Association. As both a local and a ‘national’ councillor over the past 10 months I have been listening, as most people have, to some terrible stories about families who were not able to comfort their loved ones in their final months, weeks and days.
I think first of the misery of the people that are dying. The comfort of having lived well is reinforced by the presence of a family member or friend. Someone to talk to; to reminisce with or simply hold their hand as they passed can make dying the ultimate experience and not the ultimate terror.
Not only does the sadness apply to the person who dies but there are long-term mental health consequences for the people who had to stand aside. The feeling of desolation that at the last they were unable to help their love ones at the end will remain with them for a long time it is certainly slowing the grieving process. This is especially true of some communities where the ‘laying out’ of the dead with washing or other rituals prepares them for their journey into an afterlife.
The NHS is anticipating a 30% increase in people with health problems in coming months. This is one of the causes of mental illness that be reduced cheaply and quickly.
The fact is that because so many elderly people have died and so many families are currently reluctant to put their families in them there is a large vacancy rate in care homes in Liverpool and nationwide. This means that there is room in most facilities to isolate those with Covid and to ensure safe social distancing for both visitors and staff as they care for the residents.
This cannot be done without improving the track and trace system. Currently all staff are being tested weekly but it can take days for the result to come through which means that if they were infectious, they could well have infected the whole of the care home in that time. That’s why we believe that the whole testing, track and trace should be led by the public health departments of local councils with their specialist knowledge.
Currently 42 out of 82 of our care homes in the City have a Covid case or two in them. At this level the infections can be carefully monitored and controlled at a tiny risk to other residents and staff. This is why we must resist what happened in the early stages of the outbreak when the dying were sent to care homes to die to release pressure on hospitals. This overwhelmed ability of the care homes to cope which led to enhanced levels of death for residents, poorly paid care home staff and the wider community as infected staff returned to their homes and communities.
I urge Liverpool City Council to urge the Government to support 5 simple steps
- Testing of visitors to help the management of the virus
- As a minimum, designating one person per resident as a ‘special visitor’ who is eligible for regular testing, PPE and training alongside the care home staff, to help facilitate their ability to keep coming in.
- Recognise that care homes and residents are all different and must be enabled to manage visiting in the way that works for them, their environment and their people and empowered to talk to all their residents, their loved ones and staff to work this out.
- Support all care homes to create safe COVID-19 visiting spaces to use to visit safely
- Get the entire health and care sector in our City to rally around to support care home visiting, including the Care Quality Commission, local authorities & Directors of Public Health, and health and care staff too.
The NHS is supposed to support ‘cradle’ to grave’ care. Regrettably, too many people are reaching the end of our lives without that care. We need to let people live and die with compassion and care. The risks here at minimal but the benefits are huge to many of the people who will die and the families and friends that will mourn them.