A Summary Guide for Carers
Update on policies for visiting arrangements in care homes
Department of Health and Social Care – 21 September 2020
The Department of Health and Social Care have updated their guidance on visiting care homes which was first published on 22 July. This guidance applies to family members wanting to visit residents in care homes and is expected to be further updated in the future as the situation changes. The guidance applies to England only. Guidance is also being produced for care home residents visiting people outside the care home. Guidance for supported living settings, for example extra-care housing, is due to be published shortly.
The following is a brief summary of the guidance; full details can be found via the following link:
What is the guidance for?
The guidance sets out the Government’s first priority as being “to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in care homes and prevent future outbreaks, to ensure the health and safety of both care workers and residents.”
It also recognises how difficult lockdown has been for residents and families and that visits are important.
The guidance details the arrangements that should be made by different people and organisations within health and social care when considering visits to residents by families. It refers to what care homes should do and the role of the local Director of Public Health in leading arrangements.
The guidance emphasises that the approach to visiting should be decided in each local authority area by the Director of Public Health based on the local infection and growth rates. The arrangements may also change rapidly if the situation deteriorates.
What is happening?
Each care home or group of care homes will be producing a visiting policy which should be made available and/or communicated to residents and families. This could include a visiting policy for particular residents or groups of residents.
The visiting policy will be guided by advice from the local Director of Public Health who will be considering information including local testing data including track and trace data, and any national oversight taking place due to transmission rates.
In addition, visiting policies will need to consider other factors including the level and type of care provided by external visitors, the benefits of visits against the risk of transmission in the care home or in the wider community, practical arrangements that can be put in place to mitigate risks e.g. garden visits, and the vulnerability of particular residents or groups of residents.
There is an expectation that alternative forms of contact e.g. telephone or video would be used in preference to a face to face visit. If visits do take place, these should be limited to one consistent family member and may not be at the level that would previously have taken place.
If the care home visiting policy allows for different rules to apply to different residents or groups of residents, then further decisions will need to be made. This will include why there is a different approach for different people, any factors that are relevant for different individuals or groups, and the decision-making process being used. Where residents lack capacity to be involved in the decision-making, their advocates or those with power of attorney should be consulted.
If I can visit my relative in a care home, what should I expect?
The assumption is that visiting will be minimal and other forms of contact will be used wherever possible.
The visiting policy of the care home will provide information about whether a visit is possible and what you can expect if you can go.
If the care home used to have an open door approach to visiting, this is likely to have changed and care homes are being encouraged to operate a booking system for visits.
You will need to be screened when you visit and you will be expected to wear a face covering.
You should be reminded to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the building.
You will be asked for your contact details linked to the need to be able to test and trace in the event of cases of coronavirus.
Visitors should have no contact with other residents and only minimal direct contact with staff.
Arrangements for visiting may change rapidly depending on the local infection situation.
Prepared by Karen Greenhalgh,Project Manager Law 4 Dementia Carers is a partnership project between the Life Story Network/tide and Making Space, funded by The Legal Education Foundation whose aim is to raise the awareness and knowledge of the legal rights of carers of people with dementia.