Testing pilot in Devon and Cornwall aims to 'reunite' care home residents and families

Many care homes already have measures in place to help safer visits take place. Credit: PA

A trial to regularly test family and friends of people living in care homes, to allow them to visit their loved ones, is starting in Devon and Cornwall on Monday.

The new pilot will offer tests to one family member or friend of a resident. It is hoped it will put an end to "heartbreaking" restrictions on visiting.

The government says it wants the scheme to be rolled out to other regions before Christmas.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock says, "I know how heartbreaking restricting visits to care homes has been, not only for residents - many of whom will feel disoriented and confused by the situation - but also their loved ones who aren't able to simply hug each other to support them in this difficult time."

He added, "By respecting social distancing and staying at home as much as possible we will help reunite families and friends with loved ones in care homes as quickly as possible."

The Alzheimer’s Society praised ministers for recognising their calls over “the integral role that family carers play in supporting their loved ones with dementia” but worried the change in approach could have come too late for some.

The charity said, “We worry it is too little too late for the desperate families who have been waiting eight months to visit their loved ones.

“The promise of care home visitors being at the front of the line to get more ring-fenced tests as the new ones become available must fast become reality.”

“We have to recognise the terrible mental health toll on people with dementia simply giving up on life as well as on the many thousands of grieving families who haven’t been able to be with their loved ones in their last months, weeks and days, and who will never be able to get that precious time back.”