People will be able to visit relatives or friends in some care homes again, after being prevented from doing so in order to try and stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Government has issued new guidance to help care homes allow visits again, but keep both residents and staff protected at the same time.
Are visits to care homes able to resume?
Those wishing to visit care homes will be able to do so once local directors of public health and local authorities decide that it is safe, the Department of Health and Social Care has said.
However, risk assessments will be carried out before care homes reopen to visitors, who will have to wear face coverings and observe social distancing.
What are the new rules?
Visits should now be limited to a “single constant visitor” per resident wherever possible. This is in order to limit the risk of spreading Covid-19 and to keep the number of people coming in and out of the care home down.
The guidance also says that care homes should encourage visitors to wear a face coverings and wash their hands thoroughly both before and after the covering is used.
Visitors may also be required to wear appropriate further personal protective equipment, including gloves and aprons, but this depends on the need of their visit.
Care homes should consider if visits could take place in an outdoor area, such as a communal garden, or a place that visitors can get to without having to go through a shared building.
‘It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “I know how painful it has been for those in care homes not being able to receive visits from their loved ones throughout this period.
“We are now able to carefully and safely allow visits to care homes, which will be based on local knowledge and circumstances for each care home.
“It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes over the last few months while ensuring families and friends can be safely reunited, so we have put in place guidance that protects everyone.”
Why has there been a lack of guidance until now?
Up until now, there has not been any Government guidance regarding visits to care homes. It is understood that some care homes in England have allowed socially-distanced visits in outdoor areas, if the facility has been free from Covid-19 for a certain amount of time, since June.
Care England produced its own document for members on visiting learning disability providers on 10 June, alongside supporting a visitor’s protocol for residential care providers produced by the Care Provider Alliance on 19 June, but was “disappointed” that the Government guidance had come so late.
Chief Executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green, said, “This guidance should have been with care providers last month.
“We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector.”
Does the guidance leave anything out?
Care England also expressed concerns that the Government guidance has left out important issues, such as the advice around visitors and residents leaving the premises together.
Other points not addressed in the guidance include:
- Supported living- Insufficient information about Local Outbreak Boards- Volunteers- Support staff ratios- Lack of information around how a dynamic risk assessment may affect the frequency of visits