The Army trains care home staff to administer lateral flow tests at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool

Testing pilot launches to allow more meaningful care home visits

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A TESTING pilot launches in Liverpool on 3 December which will pave the way for relatives to get closer to their loved ones during indoor care home visits.

Staff at 11 homes in the city have been trained to give lateral flow tests (LFTs) as part of Liverpool’s wider community-testing pilot which will mean that protective screens are not necessary during visits.

The care home pilot, led by Liverpool City Council, will last for two weeks and it is then hoped that the testing process will be offered to all other care homes in the city.

Visiting slots must be pre-booked directly with care homes and a risk management plan will be in place for each resident.

To keep residents as safe as possible one visitor wearing full PPE will be allowed for each visit and visits will be for 30 minutes (preceded by a waiting time of 30 minutes for a second LFT result) during daytime only.

The full process for the care home visiting pilot is:

  • Book a visiting slot directly with the care home
  • Visitor takes an LFT and a PCR test at the Hunter Street test centre (entrance on Cuerden Street, at the rear of Liverpool Central Library, ) on the day of the visit (or within 24 hours of the time of the visit). Tests must be pre-booked online or by calling 0845 111 0692
  • If the visitor receives a negative LFT result they go to the care home at the designated time
  • A further LFT is given at the care home and if negative the visit goes ahead.
  • Visitor wears PPE of apron, mask and gloves and will be advised of social-distancing measures
  • Visitors can hold the resident’s hand wearing gloves but there can be no hugging
  • There must not be any skin-to-skin contact between the visitor and the resident
  • Visiting areas will be cleaned between visits.

The 11 homes in the pilot are: Abbeydale, Alt Park, Breckside Park, Cressington Court, Garden Lodge, Glenarie Manor, Greenacres, Oak Vale Gardens, Redcourt, Wavertree, and Granby Hub.

For homes not in the pilot programme, indoor visiting can take place following national guidance which is set out on the council’s website . However, if there are any Covid-19 cases or suspected cases in a home visits will be suspended.

Unlike other areas of the country, Liverpool has never had a blanket ban on visits to care homes, except where there was an outbreak of Covid-19. Outdoors visits have been allowed throughout the pandemic subject to a risk-assessment for each resident by their home.

The care home pilot has been developed from learning from Liverpool’s citywide SMART (Smart Asymptomatic Meaningful Repeated Testing) pilot that started on 6 November.

Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, said: “One of the main reasons why as a city Liverpool welcomed asymptomatic serial testing was to work towards allowing more meaningful visits in its care homes.

“This has been a complicated project where we have had to balance the safety of vulnerable residents and care home staff with the emotional needs and well-being of everyone touched by the care home sector.

“As with the wider testing pilot, I would ask family members to work with the care homes and their staff as we work out how the visiting process looks on the ground.

“Again, if we do this right, this is another opportunity to enhance people’s lives, not just in the rest of Liverpool’s care homes but also in the rest of the country.”

Cllr Paul Brant, cabinet member for health and social care, said: “We know that the last few months have been incredibly tough on family members and their loved ones who are looked after in Liverpool’s care homes.

“Most of our homes have done what they can to continue with visits. But as the winter has drawn in outdoor visiting is not acceptable and we fully appreciate that indoor visits with protective screens are not the way forward that any of us really want.

“The testing pilot in homes is another chance for Liverpool to lead the way and I would like to thank the homes which are working with the council on its pilot.

“But, above all, I want to thank the families for their patience during these long months.”