Sheffield's Public Health director shares advice on how to protect care home residents from Covid-19 while allowing family visits

Care homes have a nightmare balancing act of trying to keep residents safe from coronavirus while also allowing relatives to see them.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 9:48 am

The highest loss was 27 residents in one home so care homes are extremely cautious but Sheffield's health chief says not being able to visit relatives has serious consequences for both families and the elderly person.

Director of Public Health Greg Fell said: "Trying to balance this is a genuinely very difficult and emotive job.

"We are trying to strike the right balance. Not being able to visit your elderly relatives carries consequences for you, and more importantly, for them and we have to balance that with the risk of infection.

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Greg Fell, director of public health at Sheffield Council

"We are balancing that in a very emotive and legal environment and it's a nightmare, to put it bluntly.

"A paper published by SAGE earlier this week made clear that the impact of visiting is actually quite small but it has to be very carefully risk managed."

Mr Fell said ever changing cororavirus rules also made it difficult for both the council and care homes to keep abreast of what is allowed.

"Sheffield has been put into the high risk category and I'm fairly certain it says visiting care homes should be in exceptional circumstances.

"We need to work out what exceptional means, but this is now the law of the land, it is not guidance.

"So, again, that puts us into a fairly tricky position. There's risk on all sides of the equation here and it's how best to manage that risk for the benefit of everybody concerned."

Council officer Joe Horobin said visiting, which had previously been outdoors, would become harder with a dark, cold winter.

"We're emphasising to care homes the importance of safe visits where it is essential to the person or where there are exceptional circumstances for their health and wellbeing. It's very difficult.

"Care homes are very anxious about their residents and their reputation. It's also difficult from an insurance perspective and a significant concern because doing anything which doesn't sound exactly what is written by the government is really challenging."

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