At least 100 care homes have banned all relatives from seeing their elderly residents despite government advice allowing healthy people to visit.
The government has not taken drastic measures leading to fears vulnerable people could catch the virus.
Bupa, which runs 125 care homes, advised on Friday that no visits should be carried out except in exceptional circumstances.
At least 100 care homes have banned all relatives from seeing their elderly residents despite government advice allowing healthy people to visit
A spokesperson for the healthcare provider told The Guardian: ‘We are continuing to keep our residents, relatives and staff safe and well, so are taking additional measures by minimising visits to our care homes.’
The Government said no one who has experienced potential symptoms of covid-19 should visit care homes, and also stressed the importance of good hand washing for visitors.
But it stopped short of banning visits meaning society’s most vulnerable people could be at greater risk.
The Government’s review recommended care homes to consider the wellbeing of residents who would react positively to seeing friends and family during such a period of anxiety.
Judy Downey, chair of the Relatives and Residents Association, revealed she was worried about elderly people not being able to see their loved ones and the impact it may have.
‘We have tin-pot dictators telling people that they can’t visit their parents and partners based on something they have half-heard.
Boris Johnson said relatives can visit elderly residents in care homes as long as they haven’t exhibited symptoms of the virus
‘If you had the choice, at the end of your life, between not seeing your children or dying more quickly, which would you choose? I’d choose the latter.’
Despite Johnson’s advice, four major chains called a halt to routine visits and another asked families to consider staying away.
The 91-bed Oakridge House in Basingstoke in Hampshire told relatives and friends of residents to stay away after declaring a positive test.
Managers did not disclose whether the affected individual was a resident or a staff member. The home houses both residential guests and nursing patients with greater medical needs at a typical price of £895.
Among chains trying to limit family visits was HC-One, the UK’s largest group, said it was ‘restricting non-essential visitors’ from all of its 340 care homes.
A spokesman said: ‘This is a decision that has not been taken lightly’.
Barchester Care Homes, which runs more than 200 homes in the UK with over than 11,000 residents, told residents, patients and visitors that ‘as a preventative measure, we are asking visitors, including family members and friends, to stop routinely visiting our care homes and hospitals until further notice.’
The firm’s letter added: ‘We have not taken this decision lightly and appreciate that this may cause some discomfort, but feel this is a necessary step to take.’
It said that families must clear any ‘non-routine visits’ with home managers before coming. It also warned that entertainment by visiting performers has been stopped.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that care home visits might have to stop and that volunteers might be asked to step in
Relatives have been told that if any home has a confirmed case of the virus, all visits will be halted.
Runwood Homes, which has over 70 care homes, has also banned visitors.
Colten Care homes, which has 21 nursing homes across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and Sussex, has not banned visitors but is asking relatives and families to ‘think twice about whether or not a visit is really necessary.’ CEO Mark Aitchison said visitors will have to ‘undergo various additional procedures’ such as filling in questionnaires and having their temperature taken with an infrared thermometer.
Four Seasons Health Care, the country’s second biggest chain, said there was no visitor ban across its more than 200 care homes. However it asked relatives to check with mangers before turning up.
A spokesman said: ‘Family is an important factor in the well-being of many of our residents. However, we are asking families to reconsider making visits unless they deem them essential and to agree these in advance with relevant personnel.’
The difficulties for home operators came as the care home sector – which houses in all around 430,000 main elderly residents – complained that it had received too little guidance from Government.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that care home visits might have to stop and that volunteers might be asked to step in to supplement the care workforce if the virus causes major labour problems. Earlier this week a Government advisor suggested that care home residents might be ‘cocooned’.
But up to yesterday afternoon there had been no more detailed advice.
Professor Martin Green, chief of the Care England homes’ umbrella organisation, said of visitor restrictions: ‘Some care providers have introduced this as a precaution but we need very clear guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England as to what the position is. We have been asking for this repeatedly.’
Caroline Abrahams, director of the Age UK charity, said: ‘We know the pressure that care staff are under at the best of times and they will be fully aware of the risks to residents and visitors in light of coronavirus.It is vital that some of the money announced in the budget to tackle the virus reaches the care sector urgently to ensure that older people receive the care they need.
‘If you are worried about visiting a friend or relative in a care home – call first to check that it is OK to visit; ensure you are symptom free and follow all advice. If you can’t visit ask the care home if they can arrange a Skype call or face time, a door drop, phone call or alternatively send a card or letter.’
She added: ‘The official advice at the moment shows that if people are feeling well, showing no signs of symptoms, and have no reason to think they have been in contact with the virus, then they can carry on with their usual activities. But it is important for everyone to be completely vigilant about following the Government’s advice as it updated.’