Witness the first family reunions in care homes with socially distanced solution

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

After spending months apart due to the coronavirus lockdown, care home residents have been reunited with their friends and family in a socially distanced solution.

Eighton Lodge in Gateshead has installed a visiting pod in the garden, allowing visitors to see their loved ones through the safety of a glass screen.

For resident Joan Yates that has meant seeing her family for the first time in more than three months - a reunion to be treasured.

The care home locked down on March 9 to protect its residents during the Covid-19 crisis.

In that time, families and friends have kept in touch via telephone and photographs shared by staff at the home.

But ahead of her reunion with her mum Joan, Doreen Hunter said actually seeing her mum in one of the visiting pods "is going to make us all feel a lot better".

Minutes before they saw each other for the first time in months, Ms Hunter told ITV News she was "so excited" and added:

"I'm probably going to cry though because I'm dead soft! I just want to see her, and see what she's like."

"I don't know who will cry first though... me!"

After the big reunion, Joan Chisholm - Joan's other daughter - said her mum was looking "so well".

Edward Dixon - another visitor to the pods - touches his mother's hand through the glass. Credit: ITV News

Wellburn Care plans to roll out the visiting pods to its care homes across the north-east - reuniting hundreds of families kept apart by the pandemic.

Keeping residents safe remains the top priority, and pods are sanitised between uses and an Eclipse pro ozo generator cleans the air.

Each side of the glass communicates with the other through an intercom system.

For Edward Dixon, seeing his mum Dolly for the first time since she went into lockdown was "very emotional".

Mr Dixon and his partner Susan Stephenson held their hands against the glass on one side, while Dolly did the same on the other side - a feeling of closeness that will see them through until they can meet again.

"It's been quite a long time, since we've been this close. But she looks great! She looks well!" said Mr Dixon.

He praised the staff at the home and said the new pods were "fantastic".

Asked what his mum means to him, Mr Dixon said "she's my life".

Rachel Beckett, chair of Wellburn Care, the pods have been "a great success".

Ms Beckett told ITV News the group's care homes were preparing "for months and months" of disruption caused by coronavirus - the pods are one way of helping.

Following the first trials today, Ms Beckett said she was "very happy" with how things went - paving the way for plenty more reunions in the coming weeks.