The Department of Health and Social Care (“DHSC”) guidance, ‘Tier 4: Stay at Home: What you can and cannot do in areas with a very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place’ which was published on 19 December 2020 and updated on 22 December 2020 refers to care home visiting arrangements in Tier 4 and states that:
“Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. You should check the guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted.”
The key updates for providers in the DHSC guidance, ‘Visiting care homes during COVID-19’ are as follows:
- Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed in care homes in Tier 4.
- All care homes regardless of Tier (except in the event of an active outbreak of COVID-19) should seek to enable outdoor visiting and ‘screened’ visits.
- All care homes in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 (except in the event of an active outbreak of COVID-19) should seek to enable indoor visits where the visitor has been tested for COVID-19 and returned a negative result.
- Visits in exceptional circumstances including end of life should always be enabled, in all tiers.
- In all cases it is essential that visiting happens within a wider care home environment of robust Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures, including ensuring that visitors follow (and are supported to follow) good practice with social distancing, hand hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use.
- In the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a care home, the care home should immediately stop visiting (except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life) to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors.
The guidance can be accessed here.
The view from Ridouts
As with the first wave of the pandemic, DHSC guidance is constantly changing and providers should keep up to date with the latest guidance. However, providers should also remember that they are responsible for setting their own policies and procedures in relation to visitors and they should do so on the basis of assessing risks to service users, staff and visitors.