Following the end of the firebreak period I am providing an update about care home visits.
I understand the impact restrictions on visiting have on those living in care homes and their loved ones. During the firebreak, visits were restricted to exceptional circumstances only across all areas of Wales as part of the national effort to reduce coronavirus cases and protect our care home populations. I know how difficult this has been.
The new national measures in place after the firebreak allow care home visits to take place – each local authority will advise care home providers about the approach in their area based on their local circumstances.
We are encouraging local authorities to make decisions on visits collaboratively using the local Incident Management Team process with input from Public Health Wales. This will avoid a blanket restrictions being put in place and support visits in those areas where conditions mean it is safe to do so.
Alongside local authorities, care home providers will also need to make decisions about how they can support visits safely in their individual homes, given their responsibility for the safety of people living there.
As set out in the Welsh Government guidance for care home providers on care home visits (https://gov.wales/visits-care-homes-guidance-providers) we encourage an approach which is based on a dynamic risk assessment of the circumstances in the individual care home, and the people living there.
Even when restrictions are placed on routine visits, we are asking local authorities and care home providers to ensure appropriate and sensitive arrangements are made to support indoor visits in exceptional circumstances. This will include, but not be restricted to, end of life visits.
We are continuing to work with our sector stakeholder group and are keeping our approach and guidance under regular review. We are looking at a range of options to further support providers in enabling risk-assessed visiting. These include the potential for additional visitor space through the use of modular units or pods and the potential for use of rapid testing technology.
The need to balance people’s rights and support their wellbeing with the desire to protect people living in care homes from the risk of infection remains challenging, and I am grateful to local authorities and providers for their positive engagement on these difficult issues.
We must do all we can to support people to see their loved ones as safely as possible.