Care home residents to be reunited with family in England under new rules

22 July 2020, 16:59

Care home residents will be able to reunite with their families
Care home residents will be able to reunite with their families. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Care homes will be allowed to welcome back visitors in England for the first time since March, under new Government guidance. 

Residents will be allowed regular visits from a single relative as long as they follow social distancing and wear face coverings. 

Local public health directors and officials will decide which homes are allowed to hold visits, based on local infection rates and testing data, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock 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."

But care home chiefs said the guidance was “overdue” and left questions unanswered.

READ MORE: All the key points from Government's new care home visits guidance

Care home visits have been halted during the pandemic
Care home visits have been halted during the pandemic. Picture: PA

Providers previously expressed "immense frustration" over the delay, which prompted some care associations to develop their own protocols for care homes wishing to resume visits earlier.

The new guidance says visits should be limited to a "single constant visitor" per resident where possible to limit the risk of infection spread and keep footfall in and out of the home down.

It is understood care homes will have discretion to ensure an elderly resident with more than one child or a larger family can see a variety of relatives. 

Risk assessments will be undertaken prior to visits starting, and visits should involve face coverings and social distancing measures.

More personal protective equipment, such as aprons, gloves and visors, will be required if a visitor is making close personal contact with a resident, but this should be kept to a minimum.

If there is an outbreak in the home or evidence of increased transmission in the community which leads to a local lockdown, care homes should "rapidly impose” visiting curbs.

It is understood that in the absence of Government guidance until now, some care homes in England have allowed socially-distanced visits in outdoor areas since June if the facility was free from Covid-19 for a certain period.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the membership body Care England, the country’s largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, said it was "disappointed" the guidance had come so late. 

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"This guidance should have been with care providers last month,” he said. "We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector."

He added the guidance does not consider issues around visitors and residents leaving the premises, with many relatives likely to want to take their loved ones out.

Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Provider Alliance, said: "The effect of not being able to see friends and family has been very difficult and very upsetting for many - both for the people who access care and support, and for their loved ones who have been isolated.

"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."

Dr Sanjeev Kanoria, chairman at the private care provider Advinia Health Care, added: “Throughout the pandemic our homes have sometimes felt more like hospital wards. 

“After an incredibly challenging few months, we are so excited to carefully welcome families and visitors once again and bring back the sense of community and warmth that gives our residents and tireless staff such a boost.”