Care home testing trials offer hope of family reunions before Christmas

Watch Martin Fisher's report.

A new Government pilot scheme is offering fresh hope that families might be able to visit loved ones safely inside care homes before the end of the year and give them a hug. If the trial is successful, it could be rolled out to the whole country over the next few weeks.Families would be allowed a single visitor inside a home provided that person has tested negative either at home shortly before their visit or at the care home itself. At the moment, many care homes have adapted by providing specially constructed visiting rooms outside the main building.

This care home in Sheffield built a pod in the garden so relatives can visit. Credit: Calendar

When Donna Brown wishes to see her mother Nina at her nursing home in Sheffield, the visit takes place in a special pod constructed in the home's garden. They're separated by glass but at least the pod gives a sense of a personal visit.

Care home managers say having to keep apart from their relatives takes a toll on the residents.

However, if a new scheme being trialled in the West Country is successful relatives like Donna might soon be able soon to go inside to visit without any barrier in the way. Twenty care homes are piloting the scheme which would allow a visitor who has been tested to go inside with appropriate PPE measures in place. 

The scheme has been welcomed, but it has also raised concerns about the extra pressures it could place on care homes if it is rolled out.

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