Helen Whately silences Dan Walker over change to care home visits ‘I’m not saying that!’

Helen Whately quizzed by host on allowing care home visitors

Helen Whately joined Dan Walker on BBC Breakfast to discuss the coronavirus vaccine rollout after it was announced all care homes in England had been offered the Covid jab. However, when Walker suggested the Social Minister had implied the vaccine would not lead to any changes to allowing visitors into care homes in the short term, Whately hit back and corrected the presenter. 

Walker asked: “When is it going to be safe for families to go and visit their relatives [in care homes]?

“Are we looking at one dose of the vaccine and PPE or will it only safe once everybody has had that double dose?”

Whately replied: “You ask a really important question and I know relatives are desperate to see their family members. 

“I know residents desperately want to have visits and at the moment, visits are quite constrained with screens or visiting pods or outdoors or things like that.

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“We do want to be able to enable indoor visiting to happen again, for people to hold hands and hug and those things,” Whately continued. 

“Obviously at the moment it’s too soon we’ve had care home residents just vaccinated we know it takes time to build up immunity and we also know we have high rates of Covid in the wider community. 

“So we can’t say it’s okay to open up yet. I’m saying to care homes please still use the PPE keep doing all the testing that they’re doing. 

“We still have to keep nonbeing vigilant we’ve just got to give it a little bit more time.”

Walker asked: “So it won’t be until everybody’s had the full dose of the vaccine?”

“No, I’m not saying that,” Whately hit back. “We are working on right now what can we do to allow some more normal visiting, some indoor visiting to start again.

“How can we use testing to do that. What confidence can we have as community rates should come down further in the wider community which poses the biggest risk to care homes.

“As I say we are looking into it because I know how important it is to the physical and mental health of those living in care homes and their families to have contact.”

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“I know it’s a difficult balance between keeping things safe and allowing people to visit,” Walker commented. 

“But you’ve got the Alzheimer’s Society who are saying another 12 week wait would be unacceptable because their quote is that people are dying of loneliness at the moment.”

“I absolutely notice how incredibly hard it is and also one of the best moments for me last year was when I was speaking to a lady who had seen her mother and was able to hold hands and do an indoor visit when we introduced testing back in December,” Whately replied. 

“Then we had the surge of the new variant these rates bringing the risks up again. 

“As I said, we are working on what we can do to try and enable visiting to restart because I absolutely see how important it is.”

Earlier in the interview, the Social Care Minister addressed the announcement that all care homes in England have been offered the vaccine. 

“We have been getting out to care homes the NHS have now had teams go into vaccinate over 10,000 care homes,” Whately said. 

“We’ve got the vaccine out to all the care homes that can have it at the minute that are looking after older people. I would say totally upfront there are a small number where there’s a current outbreak and the Director of Public Health have said the team can’t go in there yet but they’ll go in there very shortly.”

BBC Breakfast airs daily on BBC One at 6am.

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