MATT HANCOCK has now announced that care home residents across England can be visited by a friend or family member.
But Care England, which represents independent providers is disappointed the visiting guidance has only now been issued.
Mr Hancock said that visits to some care homes will restart this week. But visitors should follow appropriate safety precautions including face coverings. And social distancing will be required.
The Department of Health and Social Care added that there should only be a “single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible” to limit the transmission of Covid-19.
Mr Hancock said that local directors of public health will lead the decision making process for visits, and that risk assessments must be done before any homes are reopened.
He said: “I know how important this is. My heart goes out to those who haven’t seen loved ones in care homes for months. I hope this step helps people come back together.
“We are now able to carefully and safely allow visits to care homes, which will be based on local knowledge and circumstances for each care home.
“It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes over the last few months while ensuring families and friends can be safely reunited so we have put in place guidance that protects everyone.”
But Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said the guidance should have been with care providers last month.
He said: “We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector”.
Care England is also concerned that the guidance does not address a range of issues including; supported living, support staff ratios, volunteers, and said there is insufficient information about local outbreak boards.
Professor Green added: “This guidance fails to consider the issues around visitors and residents leaving the care setting. As lockdown lifts we are likely to see many care providers and relatives wanting to take their loved one out for visits.
“Also, we need to look beyond outdoor visits and recognise that these new conditions may be with us for quite some time. The failure to acknowledge this nuance underscores the lack of governmental understanding of the complexities present within the adult social care sector.”