A TASK group charged with looking at North Yorkshire's approach to care home visiting during the pandemic has met for the first time.

The group was set up following advice from North Yorkshire County Council for care homes and supported living schemes to limit routine visiting during October.

The recommendation followed warnings from North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, that the county needed to take early and decisive action to protect the lives of those more vulnerable to Covid-19.

The county council’s director of health and adult services, Richard Webb, wrote to care providers in September advising that routine visiting to care homes should cease from October 1 for a month.

This was borne out of concern for rising community transmission rates. However, he promised that the situation would be reviewed at the end of October.

He also announced the setting up of a task group to see what, if anything, could be done to provide Covid-secure visiting options in the future.

Last week the task group, which includes residents of care settings, family members, dementia experts and care provider managers as well as County council public health and social care staff, met online for the first time to talk about how to support visits.

Their suggested steps included; testing for designated visitors, the creation of a separate place outside of the main care building for visits and the need for additional resources to support visiting and going out into the community

Richard Webb said: “This was a really positive meeting and members of the task group welcomed the opportunity to tell their personal stories of the hardship and impact in terms of people’s mental well-being of stopping visits.

"Everybody at that meeting also acknowledged the challenges of protecting residents from Covid but showed great focus on finding solutions to enable visits if at all possible beyond October.

“My own preference is for regular Covid testing for designated visitors.

"However, given the current capacity issues with the national testing programme, it is difficult to guarantee this approach will be practicable at the present time.”

Care homes are still currently encouraged to allow window visits for all residents so that family members, friends and residents can still see each other.