Care homes need urgent funding so staff can lay on family visits this Christmas, report warns 


Care homes desperately need more funding to enable family visits this Christmas, a major report concluded yesterday.

Ninety-four per cent of care home managers are trying to arrange visits but the cost of making it happen is an enormous barrier, the National Care Forum (NCF) found.

It said an urgent injection of Government funding is needed to fulfil Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s pledge to roll out testing to all care home visitors for the holiday. Last week, the Daily Mail launched a campaign calling on ministers to ensure residents reunite with their loved ones in time for Christmas.

One of our five key demands is for care homes to have adequate funding to pay for personal protective equipment and visiting pods or rooms.

The NCF found that care homes spent an extra £4,000 on average last month to help relatives see their loved ones.

That was before Government guidelines were introduced recommending the installation of floor-to-ceiling Perspex screens, which have piled more financial pressure on homes.

The NCF found that care homes spent an extra £4,000 on average last month to help relatives see their loved ones

The NCF survey covered 1,240 care homes, 28,810 residents and 35,124 staff.

Vic Rayner, NCF director, said the extra costs included cash for ‘managing booking systems for visits and having staff available to support visits through windows and gardens’.

Care bosses warned that more money would be needed to enable the testing of all visitors as the Government’s Infection Control Fund – which covers funding for personal protective equipment – is not sufficient.

The additional financial support for care homes was needed ‘rapidly’, Miss Rayner said.

‘Then they can get on and do the planning, and we can move into that position where visiting is a default and visiting is available for all in a planned way that we can communicate properly to residents and their relatives and loved ones,’ she added.

The NCF survey covered 1,240 care homes, 28,810 residents and 35,124 staff. File photo of a lonely older woman behind glass

The NCF survey covered 1,240 care homes, 28,810 residents and 35,124 staff. File photo of a lonely older woman behind glass

Despite the financial challenges, care experts said they were ‘gearing up for Christmas mode’ and promised that staff would do their best to bring residents joy-filled festivities.

Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of Anchor Hanover care group, said: ‘Santa’s had his test and he’s on his way. And there’s loads of activity going on. Food is always an important part – the dining experience is critical to people living in care homes.

‘We’ve got our Christmas cake competition under way – always a very competitive process.’

She added: ‘People who have loved ones living in care services can be assured that our colleagues on the front line absolutely go out of their way every year to make Christmas special and they will really focus this year.’ Fiona Carragher, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘What’s great to see is how much care homes really understand the importance of getting people with dementia reunited with their family carers – with so many trying to allow more visits.’

Referring to a screening trial launched on Monday across 20 care homes in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall, she added: ‘The Government’s [testing] pilot is all well and good, but if there’s not enough money to pay for PPE and extra staff time to carry out quick turnaround tests, doors will remain shut.

‘People with dementia in care homes cannot be left to the mercy of ‘if-onlys, buts or whens’.’

Liz Kendall MP, shadow minister for care, said families were ‘desperate’ to visit loved ones after eight months of the pandemic. ‘Care homes have told us how vital family visits are to the mental health and well-being of residents,’ she said.

‘Despite promises to ensure family visits can resume before Christmas, the Government have not backed this up with the resources to make this happen.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We have provided over £1.1billion to support adult social care providers to take key steps in improving infection prevention measures, as well as £4.6billion funding for local authorities to address pressures on local services caused by the pandemic, including adult social care.

‘We know some care homes have been taking innovative approaches to allow visits, which is reflected and encouraged in our updated guidance.’

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