Updated visiting guidelines for our residential care homes – 4 August 2021
Following a detailed review of the Government’s most recent guidance, we have updated our visiting policy for our care homes.
As part of these latest changes, we are helping to support more meaningful visiting arrangements for residents and their families and friends, including changes in relation to named visitors and essential care givers.
While we recognise that the easing of national restrictions has brought new freedoms to us in our general lives, we are conscious that we need to proceed with the easing of restrictions with caution to protect everyone living and working in the care homes, whilst also allowing much greater access where possible.
The guidance for visiting is as follows:
Essential Care Givers
All residents can nominate one essential care giver, who will be able to provide a greater degree of personal care or support, that helps with the maintenance of health and wellbeing for their loved one. This person should remain the same person over time, wherever possible.
Essential care givers can visit more often, with individualised arrangements being agreed between the resident, care home and their family. These arrangements will be written down as part of the resident’s care plan and visits will need to be booked to ensure safety is maintained through entrance screening and support.
Each essential care giver will need to take part in enhanced testing, in line with our staff testing programme, and must be prepared to take part in daily testing in the event of an outbreak. The wearing of personal protective equipment, as worn by the staff teams, is required. It is also strongly recommended that essential care givers receive two doses of the vaccine before conducting visits, although this is not a requirement of visiting.
Unlike many other visitors, essential care givers will be able to continue visiting their loved one in the event of an outbreak at the care home as long as it is safe to do so.
The restriction on the number of named visitors has been removed, so residents can now nominate as many named visitors as they wish. Within reason, these named visitors should remain unchanged.
Named visitors are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum, which together with other actions such as lateral flow device testing before each visit, wearing of personal protective equipment, good hand hygiene, and following infection prevention and control measures, will help reduce the risk of virus transmission during these visits. It is also strongly recommended that residents and visitors receive two doses of the vaccine before conducting visits, although this is not a requirement of visiting.
Named visits will need to be booked to ensure safety is maintained through entrance screening and support. Visits will continue to take place in designated spaces either inside or in outside spaces within the grounds of the care home, with an assessed safe number of named visitors at any one time.
Other visitors, not nominated as essential care givers or named visitors, will still be able to visit residents in care homes, in designated areas with substantial screens, behind windows or outdoors. An assessment will be required to ensure the visit can happen safely considering the needs and wellbeing of the resident, as well as the layout and facilities of the care home.
Visitors will need to make a booking and undergo appropriate Covid testing for each visit. The wearing of personal protective equipment and following of infection prevention and control measures such as maintaining a safe distance will also be required.
A flexible approach to visiting on compassionate grounds, such as visits where a resident is experiencing distress or approaching the end stages of life is essential. Individual arrangements will be assessed and agreed to maintain dignity and comfort.
Families and friends should be aware that visits will need to be facilitated in line with national guidance, with frequency of visits, entrance screening and infection prevention and control measures still being taken into account.
Visits involving children and young people under 18
Visits involving children are often very important to residents, however these should be carefully considered by the family and agreed with the care home in advance. It is very important that any visiting children are able to follow infection prevention and control measures, such as maintaining a safe distance from their loved ones, other residents and staff members, as well as being able to follow any other advice provided by the care team. Children aged 11 years and over are advised to wear the same PPE as adult visitors. It is not compulsory for children under the age of 3 years to wear face masks.
Visits out of the care home
We recognise that opportunities for residents to make trips out of the care home are often a very important part of family and social networks and care home life. However, even as vaccine coverage increases, there are still risks involved in visits out and it is important that care homes, residents, families and friends manage these risks together. Depending on the activities involved in the outward visit and the risks surrounding these, residents may need to self-isolate on their return to the care home.
Visits out that have lower risks will typically involve spending time outdoors, or taking part in outdoor exercise not involving close contact with others. These types of visits, as well as those listed below, will not generally require a 14-day isolation on return to the care home:
• Work, education, or training.
• Medical appointments, excluding overnight stays in hospital.
• Other activities necessary to maintain health and wellbeing i.e. to a day centre or place of worship.
Visits out in exceptional circumstances, such as to visit a friend or relative at the end of their life, will be supported.
For all types of visiting, booking remains essential. This is to ensure we continue to comply with safe entrance screening and NHS Test and Trace requirements. It also helps us to safely manage numbers of visitors at any one time, maintain safe distances between visitors, staff and other residents, facilitate testing requirements and preserve the privacy and dignity of other tenants.
Why are tests needed?
While Lateral Flow Device testing is not 100% accurate, they can help us to identify at least some of the people who might be carrying coronavirus without showing symptoms.
We hope you will understand the need for us to see proof of a negative Lateral Flow Device status as this helps us manage the risks of coronavirus while facilitating visits more safely. The care home can provide packs of seven Lateral Flow Device tests kits for self-testing at home before a visit or you can get these from community pharmacies, asymptomatic testing sites and via the Government website. Test results will need to be registered on the Government website and evidence of this will be required before each visit.
Please be aware
In the event of an outbreak in a care home, and in line with Government and local Public Health Team guidance, we may need to temporarily halt visiting, only allowing essential care givers and essential visitors into the home. We will support continued communication between residents and their loved ones through video and telephone calls, and in some circumstances, window visits.
For further details
If you have any further questions or queries about visiting family or friends in or out of one of the care homes or you would like to receive an updated copy of the visiting policy, please contact the home manager.
We send our thanks and gratitude to the friends and families of residents for their continued support and co-operation, as we anticipate and work through further changes to Government guidance that will enable us to open up homes further for our residents and their loved ones.