The government has announced care home visits can begin again in England, following the publication of new guidance.
The new guidance, which was published yesterday (22 July) states that visits can resume once local authorities and directors of public health say it is safe.
According to the guidance, the directors of public health will be expected to take a measured, risk-assessed approach, considering the situation in specific care homes as well as the community context, including any local outbreaks.
It adds that care home providers should encourage all visitors to wear a face covering and to wash their hands thoroughly before and after putting it on and taking it off.
And all visitors should wear appropriate further PPE depending on the need of their visit, including gloves and aprons. Providers should also consider whether visits could take place in a communal garden or outdoor area, which can be accessed without anyone going through a shared building.
To limit risk where visits do go ahead, this should be limited to a single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible.
This is to limit the overall number of visitors to the care home and the consequent risk of infection.
But the chief Executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green said the guidance should have been with care providers last month.
‘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,’ added the Professor.
Care homes should support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record, including address and phone number, of current and previous residents, staff and visitors as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff.
It is recommended they have an arrangement to enable bookings or appointments for visitors – ad hoc visits should not be permitted.
‘We know it is incredibly difficult to be separated from loved ones but the restrictions were essential to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society,’ said the vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, Professor Jim McManus.
‘This new guidance will support directors of public health, working with directors of adult social care and the local care sector, to take a risk-based approach to enabling visits where possible whilst trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to – and between – care home residents, staff and the wider community.’
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