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Zero COVID-19 outbreaks in Cumbria’s care homes as visiting restarts

David Prince visiting his wife Kathleen at Christian Head Care Home in Kirkby Stephen. Also in the photograph is support worker Angie Earl. (Note Mrs Prince is not wearing a face mask for medical reasons).

For the first time since April there are no Cumbrian care homes experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. The good news comes as homes prepare to welcome back visitors, meaning residents can once again meet with family and friends.

But care home leaders are cautioning that future outbreaks are possible and strict rules will be kept in place to keep residents safe.

At the peak of the pandemic 27 care homes in Cumbria were dealing with outbreaks with over 300 residents infected with COVID-19, now outbreaks have been controlled in all homes and there are currently only two confirmed individual Coronavirus infections in Cumbria’s care homes.

The first visitor at Inglewood Care Home in Wigton was Carol Burns. She was delighted to meet her family member Robert Teasdale face to face for the first time since the end of March. Robert was treated for COVID-19 at Cumberland Infirmary before being discharged to Inglewood after he had recovered. Previously Carol was only able to wave through a window.

Cllr Patricia Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “This has been an incredibly challenging period for the care sector in Cumbria and very sadly despite people’s best efforts we have lost 225 people to COVID-19 in care homes. But the whole care sector, public and private, has worked together very closely to get a grip and bring the situation under control.

“It has been a phenomenal effort from the staff working day in day out and I applaud every one of them for the dedication, skill and care that they have shown throughout. I have heard so many stories of staff going above and beyond and I want to pass on my sincere thanks. We must remain on our guard, further outbreaks are possible, but we now have tried and tested ways of responding that put us in a strong position. We now need the help of the whole community to keep our care homes safe.”

Joan Bell moved into Inglewood on 28 January 2019. Joan’s husband Irwin was a regular visitor to Inglewood prior to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. It is 16 weeks since they last saw each other face to face. Irwin stated he was delighted when he received a letter to inform him that he was able to recommence his visits to Inglewood to see Joan. Joan has been all smiles since Irwin’s visit, underlining how important visits are. Also in the photograph is support worker Kerry Nobles.

Care homes across the county have agreed a common approach to allowing visitors to return. The new rules took effect from the 6th July. Under the new approach:

  • Visiting slots will be booked in advance, with visiting ‘windows’ in the morning and afternoon.
  • Visitors will be required to confirm on the day of the visit that they do not have COVID symptoms and are not living in a household with anyone who has COVID symptoms.
  • Visits will take place outside and will be subject to cancellation dependent on the weather, visits inside homes will be allowed in specific circumstances only.
  • Only two people will be allowed to visit at a time.
  • Appropriate PPE will be provided and visitors will be asked to follow clear infection control rules.
  • All visits will keep to the 2 metre social distancing rule.
  • No food or gifts can be given and there will be no access to toilets for visitors.
  • Visitors will be given a full briefing prior to their visit.

Pam Duke, Assistant Director for Cumbria Care at Cumbria County Council, said: “Being able to welcome back visitors is fantastic news and is a huge boost for residents. Social contact has a massive role in keeping people happy and healthy and we cannot wait to see people laughing and smiling with their families and friends.

“It’s really positive that all care homes in the county are following a common set of policies and procedures around visiting based on the best public health advice. It is critical that we and our visitors follow the rules to the letter. COVID-19 has had a terrible impact on people living in care homes and we all have to work together to keep them safe as we move into this next phase.”

Melanie Williamson, Home Manager at Cartmel Grange Care Home, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to welcome the friends and families of our residents back into the gardens. Social contact with loved ones is vital for good health and well being. There have been many smiles, laughs and a few happy tears over the last few days.

“However, it is so important that we all continue to follow the clear policies on socially distanced visiting to keep our residents and their visitors safe we return to a ‘new normal’.  I would like to thank the families and local residents so much for their help and understanding over the last few months.  We have all come together and it’s so wonderful that Cartmel Grange is recognised as a pillar in the community.”

Barbara Johnson, Director of Nursing for Risedale at Abbey Meadow in Barrow In Furness, said: “We are delighted to welcome our families and friends back to visit their loved ones, we would like to thank all families for their patience and support throughout these challenging times.  The letters and messages of love and care many of them have sent to our staff  really helped us through. The first test visits we have undertaken, to ensure we have the recommended safe and effective protocols in place, have been very emotional for all concerned as we see loved ones reunited.”

For full details of visiting procedures family and friends should contact their loved one’s care home directly.

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