I wish to spend the short time that I have focusing on where restrictions on social contact have been the most damaging, which is for residents in care homes.
Last month, I was contacted by a constituent who since March has been unable to visit her 96-year-old aunt, who unfortunately suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Last week, a report from the medical journal The Lancet suggested that an estimated 70% of residents in UK care homes are living with dementia and memory problems. Replacing visits from recognisable loved ones with staff wearing unfamiliar and often frightening protective equipment can understandably leave residents extremely distressed. For care home residents with dementia, regular contact with friends and family is vital. The fear of many families is that when finally they are reunited with their loved ones, they will simply not remember them. That is a devastating thought.
This has been a great week for science—as the Prime Minister said, the “scientific cavalry” is on its way to help us through this pandemic—but we need to look at a more compassionate solution to protect vulnerable residents in care homes. The news that we are one step closer to an effective vaccine is fantastic and gives us cautious hope for a more normal 2021.
On testing, the scientific progress has been extraordinary. We need to see a clearer ramping up of testing in care homes. I urge those on the Front Bench to look into the testing of visitors who go to care homes. We should give them the ability to take a quick test and get the results coming in, even if it involves waiting for an hour, so that they can at least try to get that access and see their loved ones. I am sure that that would go a long way towards improving matters as we go forward to next year.