For the first time since lockdown began in March, care home residents across England can now be visited by friends and family. New guidance published by the government puts the onus on local authorities and local public health directors to give the go ahead that it’s safe.
Among the recommendations is that residents should see the same visitor repeatedly, instead of multiple different people. They should also observe social distancing measures and wear face coverings as a precaution.
The government acknowledged that the isolating effects of lockdown have been difficult for both residents and families as it announced the news. With the rate of community transmission having fallen, it is now confident care homes can welcome visitors safely.
Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, 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.”
Many care homes have been allowing outdoor visits throughout June and these should continue when the weather and circumstances permit. Cutting down the number of people accessing a home is the best way to prevent coronavirus spread, but actions such as thorough hand washing are also good preventative measures.
Anyone wishing to visit a family member or friend in a care home should speak to the staff to arrange the exact circumstances and see what’s appropriate. Each home will have its own measures and processes in place. These will include booking a time, as ad hoc visits are not yet being permitted.
Another thing to be aware of is NHS Test and Trace compliance, meaning care homes are required to keep a temporary record of those visiting. This will include a current address and phone number in case tracking of any outbreaks is necessary.
Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Providers Alliance (CPA), said: “The Care Provider Alliance welcomes this overdue guidance – the CPA has been calling for government guidance for many weeks and released its own visitors protocol last month in its absence. People need people and this is such an important step for the wellbeing of individuals and their relatives.”
The new guidance was put together with input from a number of stakeholders within the social care sector. These include Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society UK, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Association of Directors of Public Health, Care England, Local Government Association, National Autistic Society and National Care Forum.