Indoor visits to adult and children’s care homes have been given the green light to resume today, one day earlier than previously announced.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething said the reopening date is a guide and it is for each institution to determine exactly when they would be able to begin safely facilitating visits again.
Official guidance has been prepared in conjunction with the sector and aims to support homes to manage risk and put tailored arrangements in place suitable for their premises and residents’ needs, the Welsh Government said.
Care home visits stopped when the lockdown began on 23 March. Since 16 June, outdoor visits to care homes have been allowed.
“This confirmation will be a very welcome announcement for so many across Wales,” Vaughan Gething said.
“Limiting access to care homes has been wholly necessary to protect some of our most vulnerable in our communities from the harms of COVID-19 but we fully appreciate the impact this has had on residents and their loved ones.
“Given the benefits to resident’s well-being, I hope that many homes can quickly update their procedures to enable indoor visits to take place safely. However, I do appreciate the anxiety that some providers will have about this significant change, and that some may need a little longer to put in place arrangements.
“I would urge family and friends to please be patient and understanding as homes begin to work through the logistics to facilitating indoor visits once again.”
Tomorrow’s change in regulations also applies to hospices and secure accommodation for children and young people.
First minister Mark Drakeford, announcing the move last week, said he appreciated how hard it has been for families not seeing their loved ones and the impact restrictions on visiting care homes had on people’s emotional, mental and even physical health.
“Reopening care homes for visits indoors, I think, is one of the most serious decisions we take,” he said.
“The majority of care homes in Wales have had no cases of coronavirus but we know that once coronavirus gets into a care home, then it’s a very vulnerable population and we’ve seen the devastation that the virus can cause.
“There are care home residents and nursing home residents who are simply too frail to be able to meet in the outdoors.
“It’s not an instruction. We’re not ordering care homes to do it because every care home will need to make its own assessment but the permission is now there for those visits to take place.
“I know that there will be many families and many residents to whom this will make an enormous difference.”
Care homes responded to the Minister’s announcement with trepidation, with many reluctant to take any action that increases their chance of being hurt by a second wave of the virus.
Mary Wimbury, chief executive of Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 providers, said visits must be properly “risk assessed” to ensure they do not place residents, families or staff at risk.
Mary Wimbury said: “Many care homes have facilitated socially distanced visits in outside areas to reunite residents and their families and there have been some deeply touching moments across Wales.
“However, we recognise that meeting outside is not always practical, particularly when the weather is not good. Enabling indoor visits can be important for the mental health and well-being of residents and their loved ones but it vitally important this is done safely.
“We cautiously welcome this opportunity to provide additional support to care home residents through risk-assessed indoor visits by professionals, family and friends. We are pleased we are being consulted by the Welsh Government on the guidance around when such visits might be permissible and appropriate.”