Care home residents are set to be reunited with family and friends following the publication of much-awaited government guidance.
The ‘Visiting care homes during coronavirus’ guidance is now available on the government’s website.
Matt Hancock, Health & Social Care Secretary, (pictured) 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.”
The government said care home providers should encourage all visitors to wear a face covering and to wash their hands thoroughly before and after putting it on and taking it off.
Visitors should wear appropriate further PPE depending on the need of their visit, including gloves and aprons.
Providers should also consider whether visits could take place in a communal garden or outdoor area, which can be accessed without anyone going through a shared building.
The government advises that visits should be limited to a single visitor per resident where possible.
Care homes are urged to support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record, including address and phone number, of current and previous residents, staff and visitors as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff.
It is recommended they have an arrangement to enable bookings or appointments for visitors with ad hoc visits not permitted.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, was critical of the timing and content of the guidance, however, arguing it should have been with providers last month.
Martin said the guidance failed to address supporting living, volunteers and support staff ratios, and contained insufficient information about Local Outbreak Boards and how a dynamic risk assessment may affect the frequency of visits.
“This guidance fails to consider the issues around visitors and residents leaving the care setting,” he said. “As lockdown lifts we are likely to see many care providers and relatives wanting to take their loved one out for visits. Also, we need to look beyond outdoor visits and recognise that these new conditions may be with us for quite some time. The failure to acknowledge this nuance underscores the lack of governmental understanding of the complexities present within the adult social care sector.”
Dr Sanjeev Kanoria, Founder and Chairman at Advinia Health Care, said: “Throughout the pandemic our homes have sometimes felt more like hospital wards. After an incredibly challenging few months, we are so excited to carefully welcome families and visitors once again and bring back the sense of community and warmth that gives our patients and tireless staff such a boost.”
Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Kathryn Smith, added: “It is extremely welcome that we now have this guidance to enable people living in care homes to begin real social contact with their family and friends again. There was a time not so long ago when we weren’t sure when this day would be possible. We’ve heard terrible stories of how families have been torn apart by COVID-19, either through lack of time spent together, or when family members have missed funerals because of lockdown. My own family knows how challenging it was to attend my Aunt’s funeral online. Clearly there will have to be safeguards in place, which will depend on the specific care home and issues within the local area. We have to feel confident that this reuniting goes well, and that safeguards are in place to prevent further spread of the virus within care homes.”