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Visits to care homes

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

Government guidance for how family and friends can visit their loved ones in care homes during national restrictions was updated 12 January 2021.

GOV.UK: Visiting care homes during COVID-19

We fully appreciate the eagerness of families to see their loved ones and we are working with care home providers to see how these new guidelines can be implemented successfully so visiting can take place safely.

The guidance sets out the measures being taken by care homes to provide COVID-secure opportunities for families to meet, using visiting arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, and window visits, but has also been updated to include lateral flow tests.

This is national guidance for all CQC registered residential and nursing homes. This advice is likely to change rapidly in the light of new science, national guidance and the rollout of new national pilots.

Guidance on lateral flow testing in care homes

Those care homes, which feel able to safely facilitate the testing and visiting regime and are free from COVID-19 infection may allow indoor visiting in exceptional circumstances provided the relative receives a negative lateral flow test on the day of the visit.

Even with a negative test, visits can only happen under strict infection prevention and control measures, with visitors wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and observing social distancing at all times.

Visitors will be asked to sign a risk management plan in which they accept the risks of the visit and agree to the rules placed around the visit which support the care home in managing the risk.

Where a visitor tests positive, the visit cannot go ahead.

Anybody with a positive lateral flow test must obtain a PCR test and the visitor will have to go home and isolate until they receive the test results. They will continue to isolate for 10 days if the PCR test result is positive.

Your questions answered

Please contact your care home's management team to see what COVID secure visiting arrangements they have in place.

The provider of the care homes is best placed to decide how visits will be achieved in practice, taking into account the needs and wellbeing of individual residents, and what is practicable given the layout and facilities of each individual care home.

What to expect when arranging a visit

In order to limit the overall number of visitors to the care home and/or to the individual, and the consequent risk of infection:

  • All visits must be booked in advance with the care home so that a risk assessment can be produced prior to your visit.
  • Visitors should be limited to an absolute maximum of two named/registered/designated visitors per resident and each visitor should visit at separate times.
  • Please avoid high risk settings for virus transmission in the week prior to your scheduled visit.
  • Do not visit the care home if you or members of your household or support bubble are unwell for any reason.
  • Visitors may not bring pets with them when they visit a resident except for service animals e.g. guide dogs.
  • Children under the age of 12 are discouraged from visiting due to the difficulties in maintaining social distancing. In exceptional circumstances, they can be allowed to visit. However, they must be accompanied by a responsible adult who will ensure that they understand and comply with the rules that apply for care home visitors.
  • Some care providers are unable to provide refreshments during a visit. Please make sure you are aware of your care home's guidance in advance.

Things to remember on the day of the visit

  • All visits will be strictly controlled in terms of time to enable time for cleaning of the visiting space between visits.
  • You must wear PPE and ensure that you are socially distanced by 2.5m from any staff member or resident for the duration of the visit and use hand sanitizer provided. This will be needed even if you have a negative rapid Covid test on the day.

Please do not attend a visit if:

  1. You are currently experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus (continuous cough, high temperature, loss of sense of smell/taste), or have done within the last 10 days.
  2. You have received a positive result from a test for coronavirus within the last 10 days.
  3. You live with a person who is experiencing symptoms or has experienced symptoms within the last 14 days.
  4. You have been advised by a health professional to self-isolate.
  5. You have been advised by the government Test and Trace service that they have had contact with a person carrying the virus and should therefore self-isolate.

You are putting your loved ones, care home staff and other residents at risk if you do not follow the above guidance.

Please remember that not all care homes are using lateral flow testing.

Those care homes, which are using lateral flow tests, feel able to safely facilitate the testing and visiting regime and are free from COVID-19 infection may allow indoor visiting provided the relative receives a negative lateral flow test on the day of the visit.

Even with a negative test visits can only happen under strict Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) measures, with visitors wearing appropriate PPE and observing social distancing at all times.

All visits to care homes must be suspended where there are any confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the home, except in the case of exceptional circumstances such as a resident being at end of life.

In care homes with individual or suspected cases, visiting for other residents would be based on the care home's ability to manage the isolation of the resident.

Visitors to care homes in west Cheshire must abide by the travel restrictions for their area of residence, and those governing the borough of Cheshire West and Chester at the time of their visit. This is to limit the transmission of the virus, protect our staff, residents and the wider public.

Each care home has a visiting policy, which is available to residents and families. A copy of this policy and any updates are also shared with our Contracts Team at Cheshire West and Chester Council. We would ask you to contact the care home in the first instance.

The safest option for visiting people in care homes remains to be outdoors, but we recognise that with colder and wetter weather during the autumn and winter months this might not always be possible or suitable for some residents.

The latest national guidance refers to the use visiting pods, or a designated visiting space with floor to ceiling shield when facilitating indoor visiting.

The provider of the care homes is best placed to decide how visits will be achieved in practice, considering the needs and wellbeing of individual residents, and what is practicable given the layout and facilities of each individual care home.

A risk assessment must be undertaken for each visit to enable the provider to assess and balance the risk of local prevalence of infection and their ability to implement practical measures to mitigate any risks and manage the visit safely.

The assessment takes into consideration the health and wellbeing risks arising from the needs of the of residents in that setting. This includes both whether their needs make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and whether their needs make visits particularly important (for example, people with dementia, a learning disability or autistic people may be permitted visitors when restricting visitors could cause some of the residents to be distressed).

The assessment formally considers the advice of the local Director of Public Health. It must also take into account, the significant vulnerability of residents in most care homes, as well as compliance with obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, as applicable.

All residents have the right to refuse to take a visit and this should be respected. If the resident decides they do not want the visit to take place, even on the day of the visit, families should be informed. If you have any doubts and need advice on this subject, please email the Access Team:

Email Access Team

Socially distanced visits may be upsetting for those with dementia or otherwise inhibited capacity. Where the resident does not have capacity, a best interest decision should be taken with regards to visiting.

The approach to visiting for each service user, which may vary depending on their individual support needs, should be recorded in their support plan. This considers the resident's needs, preferences and ensures that their rights and personal dignity are considered. This risk assessment should be used to assess the specific needs, requirements and risk of each resident, as well as any specific vulnerabilities which are outlined in the resident’s care plan, and to consider the role that visiting can play in this. Families, friends and any relevant professionals should be actively involved in the development of these individual risk assessments and can advise on decision-making where the person in question lacks capacity to make the decision themselves.

In light of their obligations to residents' rights and wellbeing, it may be appropriate or necessary for providers to apply different rules for different residents or categories of resident.

If you cannot visit in person, perhaps due to a COVID outbreak, a negative risk assessment, or positive rapid COVID test, there are other options to maintain contact with your loved ones such as:

  • Telephone calls
  • Video calling
  • Emails and texts

Contact your care home provider to find out what is on offer.

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