Distraught families said they could hug loved ones in nursing homes at Christmas because they feared "betrayal" by officials.
A number of councils and large nursing home groups are refusing to obey new national rules that state that each of their families should receive meaningful visits.
Some people have already been told that they will not be able to see cared for relatives during the holiday season – not even to wave to them through a window.
In less than two weeks until Christmas, Boris Johnson's promise that all nursing home residents will be able to hug their loved ones hangs in the balance by then.
Sarah Jackson with her mother Mary Garbe. Sarah's mother went to a BUPA nursing home in July – and that was the last time she saw her face to face.
Sylvia Haycock, 86, at the Whiteley Village Nursing Home, is visited by her daughter Sharon Maycock-Prime, 54, of Staines after her daughter took a quick Covid-19 test
An audit through the mail found that four large nursing home chains and nine councils refused to run quick tests on visitors to see if they could be admitted to premises due to "unfounded" concerns about their accuracy.
We can hold hands for the first time in months
When her mother's nursing home announced that it was testing visitors who wanted to drop by relatives, Sharon Maycock-Prime was the first to line up for the trial.
The 54-year-old was a "guinea pig" for the new system that allowed her to hug and kiss her mother Sylvia Maycock without screens. And she couldn't believe the power of physical contact after having been out of contact for several months.
The retiree, a former dinner lady, lived independently until March this year when she suffered a fall so bad that her brain bled.
The 86-year-old now lives at the Whiteley Homes Trust's Eliza Palmer hub in Elmbridge, Surrey, which began rolling out cross-flow testing last week.
Before that, mother and daughter could meet outdoors, but had to keep their distance. However, the couple can now share some much-needed hugs. And since Ms. Maycock is mostly non-verbal, cuddling is the best way to get in touch with her.
Ms. Maycock-Prime said, “We just kissed, cuddled, and talked for a long time. I worry that I exhausted her because I couldn't stop talking! I think it was a bit of a shock. & # 39;
Diane Mayhew of Residents' Rights Campaign Group said, "Families have been through nine months of hell and are facing yet more betrayal by councils and foster homes." Age UK charity told government, councils and nursing home chiefs, "Pull out the stops to get a personal visit off the ground."
Last week, according to a Daily Mail campaign, the government promised that by the end of next week millions of "lateral flow tests" will be introduced in nursing homes to help reunite residents and families.
It was said that visitors who tested negative for Covid are likely to keep relatives for the first time in months.
Many reunions have taken place since then, but charities are warning that progress is stalling. Tens of thousands of residents are held hostage by nursing homes and councils.
Some homes have suggested that it will not be possible to hug visitors until everyone has been vaccinated, possibly until March.
Those who refuse to allow physical contact include large providers like Bupa, MHA, Barchester Care, and Anchor Hanover, which take care of tens of thousands of residents.
The mail sent letters from nursing homes to relatives defending their decision not to use the tests and, in some cases, insisting that visitors speak to residents of older nursing homes through prison-style Plexiglas screens.
Many have expressed concerns about the accuracy of lateral flow tests, which provide results within 30 minutes but are less accurate than standard Polymerize Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.
However, a large study by Oxford University and Public Health England last month concluded that the cross-flow tests were sufficiently accurate.
Don't managers know how important it is to have the right contact?
Sarah Jackson's mother Mary went to a Bupa nursing home in July – and that was the last time she would have had proper contact with her.
"I took her to the door, they took her and that was it," she said. "I've only seen her through a window since then." Ms. Jackson has already been told that she will not be able to hug or hold hands over Christmas to her 93-year-old mother, who has dementia.
The best she can hope for is a socially remote visit through a screen in a "visit pod". Even then, the house in Stowmarket, Suffolk, will not be suitable for every resident to visit.
Ms. Jackson said, “They haven't had any cross-flow tests, but they have told us that even if they do visitor tests, we won't have physical contact.
“Mom just wants to hug me and get closer. The carers in the apartment were great and say they don't understand why we are not admitted. But senior management at large nursing homes, including Bupa, seem unable to cope with this and see the importance of a visit.
"Getting visitors should be their priority. I don't see how caregivers can spend their normal Christmas with families, but we can't be together."
However, a Bupa spokesperson insisted, "The government's advice is clearly that direct contact should be discouraged and that cross-flow testing is between 50 and 75 percent effective. For this reason, we use them in conjunction with existing infection control measures and ask relatives not to contact them temporarily.
"We will continue to review this if the guidelines change."
Last night, activists accused nursing homes of being overly risk averse and the Alzheimer's Society warned, "There is no point in saving people from the coronavirus when they die of loneliness."
Ms. Mayhew added, “Health care providers, with the help of local authorities, are finding every barrier to prevent visits. There is no point in sending millions of these tests to nursing homes if they then refuse to use them. The tests are considered safe.
“It is time for the government to step in and acknowledge this publicly so that nursing homes can no longer refrain from visiting.
& # 39; The clock is ticking. Many people in nursing homes are nearing the end of their lives. You don't have months, weeks, or days to wait. & # 39;
Some nursing homes that wish to allow indoor visits have their hands tied by local authorities who have ordered them not to do the tests. The Daily Mail has also identified nine councils that have placed restrictions or raised concerns about the use of rapid Covid tests for visitors.
That includes Liverpool City Council, forcing relatives to take three tests on the day of a scheduled visit, insisting, "There can't be a hug."
In Norfolk, where infection rates are among the lowest in the country, the county council said that only outdoor or virtual visits should be recommended and insisted that most "care providers are unable to begin side-flow testing." ".
Last night, charities said the tests need to be put in place immediately, "no ifs, no buts," warning that the lack of contact is causing residents to "give up life".
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: “We have heard some nursing homes suggest postponing the visit until everyone has been vaccinated, but this would mean another longer delay. For many of these elderly people, literally every day counts.
"Far too many elderly people and their families are in limbo, tormenting themselves over whether they will ever see each other again."
Alzheimer's Society's Fiona Carragher said, "Giving families the chance to look each other in the eyes, hold hands and hug each other again has to happen before it's too late."
Age UK said some nursing homes claimed they could not allow visits due to insurance issues.
A survey of 2,732 people found that 70 percent have not been able to visit or see their loved ones since the pandemic began.
One respondent said, "I feel like I locked my parents away and threw away the key."
Judy Downey of the Relatives and Residents Association said most of the calls to her hotline were for restricted visits. She added: “The government seems to give hope to people and then take them away. The confusion is compounded by the chaos of testing. & # 39;
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare said: “Extensive tests have shown that lateral flow devices are suitable for use in nursing homes. Nursing home residents at all levels have the opportunity to see relatives before Christmas.
"Homes across the country are now arranging visits."
£ 690 a week fees – but can't see mom
Gavin Egan can only see his mother Carole when he is standing in the freezing cold and looking at her through a pane of glass.
Ms. Egan lives in a nursing home in Hampshire operated by major provider Anchor Hanover.
However, he is amazed that the company, which charges private rates starting at £ 690 per week per resident, has not found a way to offer meaningful visits.
Gavin Egan and his mother Carole
He said, “I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that we won't see her until Christmas. We haven't heard about testing for visitors. Our only option is to visit the window in the freezing season – should we push your Christmas presents through the window?
"The gap between what the government has promised and the reality on the ground is huge."
Mr. Egan was able to see his mother, 87, for distant outdoor visits during the summer. Since the lockdown was reintroduced in November, only window visits are allowed. He said, “Time is very precious and every day counts when you don't know how much time you have left. Visiting the window is very difficult, I don't know if she can hear us.
“I have no criticism of those who work in nursing homes, but it is noteworthy that executives in such a large company have not developed a plan to bring relatives to homes. Yes, it costs money. But how can you set a price for family reunification? & # 39;
A surprise visit for grandma, 98
Marjorie Titheridge has remained characteristically stoic throughout the pandemic.
But even she struggled to contain her emotions when her granddaughter Rebecca Parsons, 27, made a surprise visit this week – her first meaningful contact since February.
The 98-year-old, who helped repair Spitfires during World War II, had expected to see her daughter, Ruth Parsons. But she was & # 39; thrilled & # 39; when Rebecca showed up too.
Rebecca Parsons sees her grandmother Marjorie Titheridge for the first time since February
The trio were able to hold hands and have a good time in Marjorie's room at the Brendoncare Meadway in Winchester nursing home.
Ms. Parsons, 64, said: “It is very special to be able to go into her room and talk to her face to face. It's a more natural environment. It felt normal again. & # 39;
The house has been testing side flow tests for four weeks, which can very quickly identify Covid, and will continue to use them to enable meaningful visits.
The companies and councils are defying the rules
MHA: The UK's largest provider of charities, with 90 nursing homes and 5,000 residents, doesn't allow hugs, holding hands or close visits. It said it had "real concerns about … cross-river testing" with relatives.
Barchester Healthcare: The group of 14,500 people in 250 households said, "The risk that a visitor who tests the negative incorrectly will introduce this deadly virus is too great for the test to be routinely used."
BUPA: No close contact between visitors and relatives in his 130 houses, even during the tests. Instead, visiting rooms are created with floor-to-ceiling screens.
Avery Healthcare: Families of residents in their 56 homes have been told they would not do cross-flow tests if there were concerns about their accuracy.
Sheffield: The test has an "unacceptably high risk" of being wrong and should not be used until the government has proven it is safe.
Newcastle: A spokesman said: "These tests are not yet being used to facilitate visits."
East Riding of Yorkshire: Relatives have to wait for vaccine.
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Messages (t) Boris Johnson (t) Christmas