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Visiting in care homes during COVID-19

Temporary emergency measures from 8 December

  • New emergency guidelines to protect those at highest risk, have been approved for care homes. These will be in place until the second dose of vaccine has been offered to residents in January, or until there is reduced risk relating to COVID-19.

    Visitors should not visit care home residents currently, unless:

    • the visit is in exceptional circumstances which should be limited to end of life circumstances, or
    • the visit is in relation to 25 December (Christmas eve and boxing day included)

    The below updated guidelines around care home residents leaving care homes, which includes on and around Christmas day also applies. 

  • It's not currently recommended for residents to take trips outside of their care home. However, if trips do happen:

    • they should be willing to self-isolate on return and be tested in line with the self-isolation policy, at day 0, 5 and 10.
    • visits outside the home should be limited to being with the two named visitors of the resident.
    • all trips must adhere strictly to government guidelines for those who fall into the high risk category including advice against mixing in indoor environments

  • These are short term emergency measures that will be regularly reviewed. Other ways of keeping in contact with residents are encouraged to ensure wellbeing is prioritised.

    Other guidance relating to visiting in care homes is still applicable but these emergency guidelines supersede these.

Guidance for visiting care homes

This guidance should enable care home managers to establish suitable visiting arrangements for their care home. Any such arrangements should be kept under review.

Indoor visiting for residents in care homes where there is no COVID-19 confirmed / suspected cases are allowed in circumstances where the following criteria are followed:

  • During this period, consideration should be given to each resident nominating the names of relatives and friends who would wish to visit them. Each resident has a maximum of two named visitors only. Any additional visitors must be discussed and agreed with the manager on an individual basis. Only one of those visitors can be present at any one time and visits should be arranged in advance with the facility
  • Visits should be scheduled to avoid heavy footfall in the care home at any time by giving dedicated times and staggering visits.
  • Visitors should be asked if they have had COVID-19 or had close contact with a person with COVID-19 / suspected COVID-19 symptoms within the last 14 days.
  • Visitors should be asked if they have travelled in the last 14 days. Visitors who have travelled in the last 14 days must provide the care home with details of where they have been, observe appropriate isolation and provide evidence of negative screens if appropriate.
  • Visitors should not visit the home if they have been unwell in the past 7 days
  • We encourage residents to practice physical distancing at all times when outside the care home and to wear a mask, ensuring Infection control and public health advice is adhered to.
  • Visits should only take place at times when the main cohort of staff are on duty and away from mealtimes with pre-arranged timings.
  • The resident’s right to decline a visitor shall be respected.
  • Use of the residents/visitors bathroom facilities is discouraged 

Visiting process

Visitors should be made aware of the visiting processes:

  1. pre-visit screening call
  2. symptom checking and temperature check (any visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms will not be admitted)
  3. determination of previous known exposure to COVID-19
  4. area of the home they will be visiting
  5. areas of the home that are not accessible at this time and use of correct hand-hygiene techniques
  6. sign in on entry to the facility. They should either use their own pen or be signed in. This log may be shared with the contact tracing team if there is a suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19
  7. wear a surgical mask, apron and gloves for the duration of the visit. This will be provided by the care home and its disposal will be monitored
  8. guided in performing hand hygiene when they arrive

With the potential for increased COVID-19 activity through winter months Care homes may be asked to ensure visitors present a recent negative COVID-19 test result, ahead of visiting residents.

Unplanned visits shall not be facilitated. The Person in Charge / Designee will be notified of any difficulties encountered in implementation of this measure.

Care home testing programme

We'll be testing staff who work at care homes every 4 weeks. We'll also be offering regular testing for residents of care homes and their visitors every 4 weeks

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to the care home manager in the first instance. If you still have questions, contact the coronavirus helpline on +44 (0) 1534 445566.

The test

The test is a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab. The test itself takes less than 30 seconds and will involve a swab being taken from the back of your throat and nose.

The test identifies if you have the virus at the time of the test. It does not indicate if you have previously had the virus.

Residents and visitors don't have to isolate whilst waiting for test results.

Results will be provided within an average of 12 hours. 

Resident testing

Testing will be offered every 4 weeks. Testing will take place at care homes and will be conducted by trained staff.

Your care home manager will be notified with your results.

If a resident tests positive for COVID-19 they must self-isolate in line with the standard guidance.

Care home managers will provide support and information regarding self-isolation.

Visitor testing

Visitors will be offered PCR testing every 4 weeks.

Testing isn't mandatory, but it is critical to keeping everyone safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Care homes may require evidence of a negative test before you are allowed to visit, or may place other restrictions and/or ways to manage the risk of infection. Your care home manager will be able to provide further details about the requirements which apply for you.

Call the coronavirus helpline on +44 (0) 1534 445566, 12pm to 4pm any day, to book your test. 

Testing will take place at the Harbour testing centre, which is at Elizabeth Terminal. This both a drive-through and a walk-through facility, so you can attend in your vehicle or on foot.

You do not have to isolate whilst waiting for your result.

Results will be provided, by text message, in an average of 12 hours.

Taking residents out of the care home 

Residents may wish to leave the care home with their named visitor. During the temporary emergency measures, residents who leave their care home to visit friends or family must isolate on their return to their home.

We encourage residents to practice social distancing at all times when outside the care home, ensuring Infection control and Public health advice is adhered to.

If residents wish to leave the care home for a period time, we discourage the use of public transport ensuring Infection Control precautions and Public health advice are adhered to.

We encourage residents and visitors to utilise outdoor spaces whilst out on leave, ensuring physical distancing is maintained in line with Public Health advice.

If, during a period away from the home, accidental exposure to others occurs with a perceived risk of infection the home should be immediately informed prior to return. Care homes are advised to encourage visitors to download the COVID ALERT app to help facilitate this.

With the potential for increased COVID-19 activity through winter months, separate measures may be recommended aside from this guidance, to address the risk of residents leaving care homes to make visits into the community, either on their own or with visitors.

Visiting care homes if there is a confirmed / suspected case of COVID-19

If a suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19 occurs within a care home, family and friends should be advised that visiting is suspended in the interest of protecting residents, visitors and staff at this time.

However, there may be circumstances in which it may still be appropriate for family or other relevant persons to visit which will be assessed on case by case basis.  Any such exception should be discussed with Infection Prevention and Control staff and a risk assessment undertaken.

Guidance for professionals visiting care homes to provide a service

Professional disciplines should be made aware of the visiting processes which are: pre-visit screening call, symptom checking, determination of previous known exposure to COVID -19, and use of correct hand-hygiene techniques.

Depending on the activity, visitors must adhere to the PPE guidance, Infection Control and public health advice.

During the group activities, if unable to maintain physical distance recommendations, these activities must not take place.

If there is a confirmed/suspected COVID 19 case, professional discipline visits may be suspended depending on the nature of the visit.

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