Two innovative care homes are bringing residents and families ‘face-to-face’ for the first time since visits were restricted for relatives due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Lambwood Heights in Chigwell and Woodland Grove in Loughton, both part of the Oakland Care group, are introducing summer houses into their gardens which will allow residents to meet loved ones in safety.

Clear screens will be installed in the summer houses so both parties will be able to see and talk to each other.

Residents will enter from one side while up to two family members from the same household will be shown into the other side via the garden.

Half-hour visits will be booked via an online appointment system and the summer houses will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each visit.

Neither home has yet had a single case of Covid-19.

Oakland Care’s chief executive officer, Joanne Balmer said: “We are, so far, free of coronavirus due to the measures we brought in very early on such a as closing our doors to visitors. However, we recognise that residents and families would dearly love to be able to see each other.

"We have been keeping people in touch via video calls but it’s not the same as being in the same space together. This is why we came up with the idea of the summer houses.”

Ronald and Pat, who live at Lambwood Heights, are looking forward to seeing their family who haven’t been able to visit them since early March.

“It’s so positive!” said Ron. “This is such a brilliant idea, I can’t wait to see my family and to use the new summer house. Even though it will be difficult not to hug them, just to be able to talk and have them close will be absolutely wonderful!

Oakland Care brought in a raft of measures to keep coronavirus out of the homes including closing the doors to visitors, purchasing significant stocks of PPE and cleaning products, closing staff rooms, co-horting groups of staff to specific areas of the homes, additional cleaning and extra hand-washing facilities.

“We continue to exceed government guidelines to keep our residents and our staff safe,” added Joanne. “We know this is a worrying time for the whole community and we want to offer support in any way we can. Families should feel confident to move a relative in with us and be assured that they will be safe and receive the care that they need. Now that they will also be able to ‘see’ them, this will benefit everyone’s wellbeing.”

The homes will take delivery of the summer houses next week and should be installed shortly after.

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