A social care leader has warned families not to expect care homes to be “open all hours” after news that visiting restrictions are being eased.
Mary Wimbury, the chief executive of Care Forum Wales, welcomed the announcement by Welsh Government as a signal that life was slowly returning to something like normality.
But she warned it was important to remember that care homes would still be making the safety and wellbeing of their residents the number one priority.
Since 24 May, anyone has been able to arrange a visit to a care home, with two people allowed to attend at the same time.
This limit has now been removed with the Welsh government saying it will be down to individual providers to determine who can visit and when.
Care home residents will also be able to nominate an “essential visitor” who will be able to continue to visit them indoors, if an outbreak is confirmed – so long as they test negative.
Ms Wimbury said: “The successful rollout of the vaccine is clearly having a positive impact which is great news after the nightmare of the past 18 months.
“We therefore welcome the gradual move towards normalisation and we look forward to that happening for the benefit of residents and staff alike.
“There are still requirements for visitors to care homes to undertake lateral flow tests and wear PPE in order to protect vulnerable residents
“Given this, the guidance recognises that care homes have practical constraints on how many visitors or how many visits they can accommodate safely.
“Families will have to appreciate the balance that care homes seek between safety of the home and visiting. Visiting policies will be revised for each setting, taking into account their staffing, layout and other available resources.
“It is imperative that we do not throw caution to the wind because Covid-19 has not gone away and we are still in the throes of a third wave of the virus.
“We must remain vigilant and careful because the so-called Delta variant is clearly more transmissible.
“While virtually every care home resident and member of staff has now had two jabs, it is important to remember that the vaccine does not provide 100 per cent protection.
“According to Professor David John Spiegelhalter, an eminent expert on understanding risk, a vaccinated 80 year old has the same risk as an unvaccinated 50 year old, so the risk has not gone away.
“It is therefore important to point out that individual care homes will have to assess the risk, depending on a number of factors before deciding what type and extent of visits can go ahead.
“Care homes are naturally cautious given that new insurance policies explicitly exclude cover for Covid outbreaks and unlike the NHS care homes do not have a government indemnity over this.
“It would be unrealistic to expect care homes to be open all hours at this point.
“The safety and wellbeing of residents and staff will always be the number one priority of care homes and that will be their guiding principle.”