New guidance to stop the spread of the Omicron virus in England’s care homes introduces a limit of three visitors plus essential care giver to care home residents.
Expected to come into force on Wednesday, the new rules also require fully vaccinated residents to take a lateral flow test every other day for two weeks following a visit out of the home.
Unvaccinated residents will be expected to isolate following a visit out.
Meanwhile, staff testing would be increased from two lateral flow tests per week to three lateral flows and one PCR test.
Speaking to the BBC Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said she was waiting for clarity on whether the three named visitors can be changed. She also wanted to know if three people could visit at the same time and if they had to be from the same household.
DHSC has also published an Impact Assessment for vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD).
This shows that the VCOD consultation received over 34,000 responses and accepts that where there is a smaller workforce, the impact of workers not being able to be deployed… could make smaller providers unable to continue to provide services if workers are unable to be replaced.
In defence of its policy, the DHSC has announced the following mitigations:
- the 12-week grace period, allowing time for both workforce planning, and for those colleagues who are not yet vaccinated, to make the positive choice to protect the people they care for, as well as themselves
- setting an enforcement date of 1 April 2022 to assist providers over the winter period and help minimise workforce pressures
- increasing the number and diversity of opportunities to receive the vaccine; using the booster campaign to make the most of walk-ins, pop-ups, and other ways to make getting the vaccine as easy as possible
- the NHS have already written to all providers providing early guidance setting out what VCOD means for the system, as well as advising on next steps to boost uptake and help ensure smooth implementation. Guidance has also been published by NHSEI to assist providers, and small businesses who facilitate NHS services, in preparation and planning
- increasing engagement with targeted communities where uptake is the lowest, including extensive work with ethnic minority and faith networks to encourage healthcare workers to receive the vaccine
- making available resources to aid in one-to-one conversations with unvaccinated staff, with clear guidance on how to do this
- reducing the time employers have to wait in order to deploy a worker – now a worker can be deployed 21 days after their first dose, rather than having to wait 8 weeks
- reducing the complexity of the exemptions process and recognising mixed doses and vaccines received abroad
The NCA has also published instructions for people to prove their vaccination status through the NHS COVID pass app.