‘I am delighted’: Families react to relaxation of restrictions on home visits


The families of Greater Manchester are celebrating after the Government’s announcement that the residents of the residences will be able to receive ‘unlimited’ visits from Monday.

Residents can currently only nominate three people for regular visits to care settings, but from Monday there will be no cap as guidance put forward to address Omicron eases.

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It occurs when the reinforcement rate among residents reaches 86.5 percent, according to the government.

For many families, it is a time of celebration for a new level of freedom in contact with loved ones.

Nursing home bosses have also welcomed the news, in some cases on a temporary basis as they grapple with staff shortages amid the Omicron outbreak and general fatigue after two years of the pandemic.

Some managers have also told the Manchester Evening News they were not informed of the rule changes until the Department of Health sent them out as a press release.

However, many families today focus on the positives.

Graham Barlow’s father, George Barlow, 94, has been a resident of Trafford nursing homes for five years.

George contracted coronavirus early in the pandemic, and doctors told Graham he might not survive.

During the pandemic, Colin visited his father alone behind a glass screen in a specially designed room.

Visits were limited to 30 minutes and George, who lives with dementia, had trouble using the intercom.

“In the past few months we have had face-to-face visits after a lateral flow, but it is just the three people named, me, my brother and my sister,” Graham said.

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“Now his grandchildren will be able to go see him, or my wife or other in-laws.”

He added: “It will be great if they lift everything, although I will still wear a mask.”

Pauline Kirk, whose sister Trish Allen, 86, resides at Bowfell House nursing home in Urmson, said: “I’m delighted the rules have been relaxed.

“From the beginning, we have wanted our families to be safe, and that is what Bowfell has wanted.”

Pauline, who became an ‘essential caregiver’ during the pandemic that allowed her sister greater access, says Trish’s grandchildren will now be able to visit her too thanks to the relaxation of restrictions.

The Department of Health has said that self-isolation periods will also be reduced, from 14 to 10 days for residents who test positive, with further reductions if they test negative on days five and six.

Meanwhile, starting February 16, weekly PCR tests for care workers will be replaced by lateral flows and guidelines during outbreaks will only need to be followed for 14 days instead of 28.

However, Matthew Callaghan, who runs the house in Trafford, says they are still awaiting official guidance from the Department of Health.

He said: “As usual there is a press release before we are told anything, they are all headlines that capture big bold statements.

“Until we have seen the guide, nothing will change.”

He said managing ‘unlimited’ visitors would be a challenge, but added: “It’s good for families, it’s a step back to normalcy.”

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But he added: “We are well aware that infection rates remain very high, so we will proceed with caution.”

Reflecting on the two years of the pandemic, he added: “We have worked under incredible pressure and fortunately we have coped reasonably well as we have had the human power to do so.

“All we have been able to do is keep the lines of communication open with families.

“Whatever the rules have been, we have acted as quickly as possible and we have shared it. That’s all we could do and it wasn’t great, but it was done for the best reasons.

“We didn’t do everything right, and the government didn’t and there will be a public inquiry into that.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I know how vital companionship is to those living in nursing homes and the positive difference visits make, which is why we continue to allow three designated visitors and one essential caregiver. under the measures of Plan B.

“Thanks to the progress we have made, I am delighted that care home restrictions can now be further eased, allowing residents to see more of their loved ones.”

Minister for Care Gillian Keegan said: “Thanks to the continued success of the vaccine rollout, I am delighted that we are able to ease restrictions on care settings and allow unlimited visits to ensure people living in care homes see to all your family and friends.

“The changes announced today are backed by scientists, ensuring that we all have more freedoms in the face of coronavirus, including nursing home residents and their families.”

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Essential caregivers should continue to be able to visit inside a nursing home even during periods of outbreak affecting a nursing home.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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