New Guidance from 12 April 2021
From Monday 8 March, residential care providers could arrange for visits to residents from single named visitors and essential care givers.
That advice has now been updated, and from Monday 12 April, residential care providers can arrange for visits to residents from two named visitors and a single essential caregiver. Visitors who are parents will also be able to visit with babies and very young children, who will not count as one of the visitors.
Government guidance setting out these arrangements replaces the previous guidance which allowed single named visitors.
The arrival of COVID-19 has meant that many restrictions have been placed on care homes to prevent the spread of infection and ensure the health and safety of both care workers and its residents.
Directors of public health (DPHs) and care providers should follow this guidance to ensure policies for visiting arrangements and decisions are based on a dynamic risk assessment and minimise risk wherever possible.
How do I find out the visiting policy of a care home?
Each home is unique, so providers will design their own visiting arrangements that take into account the needs of their residents and what is possible within the layout and facilities of that home.
In producing these policies, providers should work collaboratively with residents, families and local social care and health professionals to strike a good balance between the risks and benefits of visiting.
Visiting policies should be made available and/or communicated to residents and families.
Do I need to take a test to be able to visit my relative?
If you are visiting a care home resident as a named visitor, you will be required to take a rapid LFD test and test negative before every visit. If visitors test positive, they must immediately return home, self-isolate and complete a further test which will be provided to them by the care home.
The care home provider should provide full details on their testing process and obtain consent from visitors prior to their participation in testing.
If you have arranged with your local care home to be a resident’s ‘essential care giver’, you will be supported to follow the same testing arrangements in place for care home staff.
Those visiting loved ones indoors at the end of their lives may be offered a test on arrival for their visit, but those visiting residents outdoors will not require a test. However, if visitors are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, they should not visit the care home, self-isolate and order a test immediately.
All visitors may be asked screening questions upon arrival. These may include:
- Have you been feeling unwell recently?
- Have you had recent onset of a new continuous cough?
- Do you have a high temperature? A care home may consider providing a temperature check for all visitors to provide confidence to visitors and to staff.
- Have you noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell?
- Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days?
- Have you had recent contact (in the last 14 days) with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or someone with confirmed COVID-19 – if yes, should you be self-isolating as a family member or as a contact advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace?
- Have you returned from an overseas visit recently and are you still in the quarantine period?
What is likely to change when I visit my loved one?
Indoor visits may take place in designated visiting rooms, but in all cases, they should take place in a well-ventilated room. Those visiting indoors must observe strict social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times, and follow care home policies in place for testing and use of appropriate PPE.
There may be some instances where visits are supervised, for example during a visitor’s first visit. This should be clearly explained in the care home’s visiting policy.
Any additional visits should take place where possible outside. Other appropriate visits include:
- Visits under a cover such as an awning, gazebo or open-sided marquee, where residents and visitors remain at least 2 metres apart.
- Visits in temporary outdoor structures, such as COVID-secure visiting areas/pods which are enclosed to some degree but are still outside the main building of the home. These areas can only allow one visiting party at a time, will require good ventilation and screens between residents and visitors.
- Visits in a dedicated room such as a conservatory, which can be accessed from outside of the home. These areas can only allow one visiting party at a time, will require good ventilation and screens between residents and visitors.
- Visits at a window.
What should I do to keep the person I am visiting safe?
Named visitors should be tested using rapid LFD tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate PPE, and follow all other infection control measures. The Care home will guide visitors on infection control measures.
Visitors and residents may wish to hold hands but are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum as any contact increases the risk of transmission.
Visitors should also be careful to ensure they observe strict social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times.
How often can I visit a care home?
Care homes will decide how often and for how long it is possible for named visitors to come into the home. This is likely to be depend on practical considerations, such as the layout of the home and the numbers of residents and families who may wish to have visits. In practice this may mean that the frequency of visits is limited, however, local Directors of Public Health may provide advice to homes allowing more regular visiting if they are confident that infection control measures and other arrangements are in place.
For outdoor visits, the guidance recommends a maximum of two visitors at any one time.
This is in order to limit the overall numbers of visitors to the care home and the consequent risk of disease transmission.
What happens if there is an outbreak at the care home?
If there is a declared outbreak in a care home, then it is recommended that visiting be restricted, with only ‘end of life’ visits recommended. These restrictions will continue until the care home has been assessed to be in recovery. You should be informed of this.
What happens if I can’t see my family or friend in the care home?
If providers are unable to safely allow visits in line with new guidance, alternative ways of communicating between residents and their families and friends should be discussed and offered. The care home should also provide regular updates to residents’ loved ones on their mental and physical health, how they are coping and identify any additional ways they might be better supported, including any cultural or religious needs.