Care homes hit by Covid outbreaks are being locked down for months at a time, campaigners warn.
National guidance means entire homes have to be closed to visitors for 28 days when someone inside tests positive – twice the standard isolation period.
If another staff member or resident contracts the virus in that time, their positive test triggers a further 28-day lockdown.
It means care homes in England hit by successive outbreaks have been shut for months, causing heartbreak for residents and their relatives. Providers are also unable to take in new paying residents while their doors are shut.
National guidance means entire care homes have to be closed to relatives wishing to visit their loved ones for 28 days when someone inside tests positive - twice the standard isolation period (stock image)
In some areas, managers are even confining residents to their rooms for the duration of an outbreak even though the Government says this is unnecessary.
Carol Smit, a director of the National Care Association, said last night: ‘The impact is tremendous. Why should it be longer than 14 days?’
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: ‘I’ve never understood the scientific evidence for 28 days in a care home compared with 14 days everywhere else.’
It says: ‘The outbreak can be declared over once no new cases have occurred in the 28 days since the onset of symptoms in the most recent case, which is twice the incubation period.’
Some residents have had to endure rolling 28-day lockdowns since summer when weekly testing of staff and monthly testing of residents was introduced.
A woman who wished to remain anonymous said her mother’s care home has just started the latest in a string of 28-day lockdowns, meaning its ban on face-to-face visits will have lasted for more than three months.
‘That might even be longer than the initial lockdown,’ she said.
‘The 28-day rule seems to make no sense whatsoever and seems to ignore the very real emotional needs of people for whom time is slipping away.’
Some care homes offer outdoor ‘window visits’ for relatives during a lockdown or allow them into self-contained visiting rooms – but others do not.
While larger homes can keep residents and staff in particular wings or floors to minimise infection, at smaller ones managers have insisted residents isolate themselves in their rooms during an outbreak.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘To prevent the virus spreading, care homes should close to visitors during an outbreak, expect for exceptional circumstances like end of life, but our guidance does not suggest all residents have to isolate.’