Care home residents in all tiers will be able to receive visits from their families over Christmas as over a million tests are to be sent to providers throughout December.
Indoor visits will be allowed if the visitor receives a negative test prior to visiting the care home. Visits must be arranged with the care home in advance, and PPE must still be worn throughout.
The guidance states that hugging and hand holding may be possible if a visitor has a negative test, is wearing appropriate PPE, and following other infection control measures. However, it advises to keep physical contact to a minimum to reduce the risk of transmission.
Indoor visits without testing may only go ahead in Tier one areas where visitor testing is not yet available in that particular care home. These visits should be in a well-ventilated area and should be limited to two people (one preferably), with social distancing, no physical contact, PPE use and good hand hygiene observed at all times. Visitors must also be from Tier one.
Care homes in Tier one areas should still implement visitor testing as rapidly as possible
Registered care homes should receive sufficient quantities of tests to test up to two visitors per resident, twice a week, by Christmas.
The full new guidance states that care home managers are best placed to decide how visits should happen in their own setting in a way that meets the needs of their residents both individually and collectively. Providers should set up their own testing areas.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long. The separation has been painful but has protected residents and staff from this deadly virus.
“I’m so pleased we are now able to help reunite families and more safely allow people to have meaningful contact with their loved ones by Christmas. This news has been made possible by the unprecedented strides made in testing technology and capacity, as well as extra PPE supplies.”
Outdoor visits and ‘screened’ visits are also still available for visitors who have not been tested, in order to provide opportunities for more visitors and greater frequency of visits than the available testing capacity in the care home might enable.
The guidance adds that the individual resident, their views, their needs and wellbeing should be considered for decisions about visiting, while recognising that the care home will need to consider the wellbeing of other residents as well.
Visits in exceptional circumstances including end of life should always be enabled.
The full guidance is available here.