Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/nclexion/public_html/wp-content/themes/jnews/class/ContentTag.php on line 47
A group of experts in nursing and infection prevention and control (IPC) is today warning against the use of IPC measures as a “rationale” for stopping safe and compassionate visits in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a new open letter published in Nursing Times, the specialists say that preventing people from visiting loved ones in social care settings in the name of the IPC is a “misinterpretation and at times even abuse” of IPC principles.
“If a care worker can touch a resident safely, so can a family member if they wear and follow the right IPC measures”
The letter is the brainchild of independent global health consultant and former Infection Prevention Society (IPS) president, Jules Storr.
Among the signatories are five former IPC presidents, current president Pat Cattini as well as incoming president Jennie Wilson.
Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, is also on the list as well as leading IPC nurse specialists, nurse academics, a GP and carers.
Ms Storr, a nurse by background, said she was motivated to take action after hearing “the most heart-breaking” stories from health professionals and relatives of residents about restricted visits in the UK in the wake of Covid-19.
Some had not seen relatives for weeks or months, whilst others were only allowed to see their loved one once a week for 20 minutes at a distance, she said.
One individual had told her how when their father had died only one family member was permitted in the home and they were not allowed to sit close enough to hold his hand.
Ms Storr said these practices were “absolutely outrageous and wrong from an infection prevention point of view”.
With the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) and good hand hygiene relatives and family members should be able to visit and even touch their loved ones, she told Nursing Times.
“If a care worker can touch a resident safely, so can a family member if they wear and follow the right IPC measures,” said Ms Storr.
The open letter, which is not addressed to a specific recipient, aims to make clear that IPC “should never be at the expense of compassionate care”.
“The ‘rules’ of IPC do not and should not prevent family members and close friends of residents entering a home, even during lockdown,” the letter stated.
“The use of IPC as a rationale for prohibiting safe entry to homes is a misinterpretation and at times even an abuse of IPC principles.”
Instead, IPC measures should be used “as an enabler and supporter of safe entry to homes”, it noted.
“The process of considering visits should be led by local directors of public health”
The letter sets out six actions targeted at care home managers, governments and local authorities, the IPC community, health and care leaders and families and campaigning groups.
These include the removal any official statements that may be seen to justify “blanket bans” on visiting.
Even if a Covid-19 outbreak occurred in a care home, “safe, compassionate exemptions must still prevail and be actively facilitated”, said the letter.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it recognised that “limiting visits in care homes has been very difficult for many families and residents”.
They said, through its new adult social care winter plan, the department was “tightening IPC measures further to enable visits to continue safely where possible”.
“The process of considering visits should be led by local directors of public health who will give a regular professional assessment of whether visiting is likely to be appropriate within the local authority, taking into account the wider risks,” they added.
It follows the announcement earlier this week by care minister Helen Whately of plans for a new pilot to support visiting in care homes by treating relatives as if they were a key worker and providing them with PPE and Covid-19 testing.