Visiting Policy during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Our priority during the COVID-19 pandemic is the safety of our service users and staff.  This policy is based on guidance for Registered Care Home settings, however principles around testing, PPE and infection control apply to all our care settings.

We believe that maintaining family and social connections is fundamental to the wellbeing of our service users and will work with our stakeholders to find the right balance between the benefits of visiting and the risk of infection transmission.

From 4th April 22 there are no nationally set restrictions on visiting in care homes.  We currently remain in a national period of ‘high prevalence’ of Covid infections and therefore will continue to facilitate visits to our homes and service user visits to places outside of their home in a risk-managed way. This means that for the time being we will maintain the following approach to visits in and out of our homes:

  • If we experience an outbreak, we may have to limit visits inside the home, however each service user will be permitted to continue to receive indoor visits from one named visitor.  All end-of-life visits will continue to be supported and no testing will be required for end-of-life visits.
  • Visitors no longer need to complete an LFD test prior to entry to our homes unless they work for the NHS, will be delivering personal care during their visit or work for the CQC. NHS staff will be required to show proof of a negative result within the last 72 hours. Paramedics are tested regularly and in emergency visits such as 999 responses, we will not ask to see proof of the negative result as this could delay emergency treatment required. CQC inspectors are part of a regular testing programme and are required to complete LFT tests on days of visits to care homes.  We will expect to see evidence of the negative test from the inspector on arrival.  Anyone delivering personal care as part of their visit will need to show evidence of a negative test result on the same day as their visit.  This test may be conducted at the care location itself or prior to the visit.

For any home that is in ‘Outbreak’ status- i.e., two members of staff or a service user has tested positive within 14 days of each other or is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms we are likely to be required to modify our visiting arrangements. During the period of any outbreak the local Health Protection Team will advise whether we need to stop visiting arrangements and of any other modifications we need to make.   The local Health Protection Team will inform us how long the outbreak restrictions need to be in place, they will be in place for different lengths of time dependant upon the characteristics of the outbreak and results of outbreak testing. 

To enable us to manage visits safely and protect our service users and staff visits will be subject to the following measures:

  • Visits will be subject to pre-visit checks which will include temperature checks and screening questions for symptoms.

It is not a condition of visiting that family or friends should have been vaccinated.  However, it is strongly recommended that all visitors take up the opportunity to be vaccinated and have their booster and flu vaccination when they are invited to do so through the national programme.  Managers may ask to see evidence of this when determining risk assessments for individual service users.

  • Visitors will be required to wear appropriate PPE and follow infection control measures.   They will be provided with PPE and advised of these requirements by staff.
  • Visitors contact should be limited as much as possible to the person they are visiting.
  • Visitors must not visit the care home if they are unwell.  All transmissible viruses can be dangerous for our service users.  If you have any symptoms such as a cough, high temperature, diarrhoea or vomiting you should avoid visiting until 5 days after you feel better.  Please do not visit if you or any other member of your household have any symptoms of coronavirus.
  • It is possible for children to visit; however, we would ask friends and family to consider this carefully and discuss this with the home manager.  Unless below pre-school age children will be required to adhere to the same infection prevention measures as adult visitors.  This will include wearing PPE for visits indoors.
  • Visits will be pre-arranged this will allow us to ensure we do not have too many visitors to the home at any one time and enable us to clean equipment such as tables and chairs between visits.
  • Each of our homes will have a risk assessment outlining the arrangements for indoor visiting.  Each location is unique, and the risk assessment will take account of the needs of the service users living there, the layout of the home and the needs of the staff working at that location.
  • Visitors are now able to access toilet facilities, staff should be informed so touch point cleaning can take place afterwards.
  • Unfortunately, we will be unable to routinely offer refreshments.  This is because masks would need to be removed and this will increase transmission risks for service users and staff.  Drinks can be provided where visits are taking place outdoors and we will assess the circumstances of each visit.  For example, visitors spending time in the home for end-of-life purposes or those who have travelled a long way may need to be offered refreshments. It is likely these will be offered in a designated area where a mask can be safely removed.
  • Managers will assess whether supervision is required during the visit.  This is unlikely in most cases as visitor contact with staff should be minimal. We will only limit the duration of visits if a risk assessment shows that safe visiting practices cannot be maintained.
  • If visitors are bringing gifts, they should try to ensure that they can be sanitised.  For example, a box of chocolates that can be wiped down.
  • Staff and service users will need to wash their hands thoroughly before and after a visit takes place.
  • Visitors should sanitise/wash their hands-on arrival and departure.
  • We will keep a log of visitors.

Additional information regarding rapid tests

  • A lateral flow test with a negative result will be required for all visiting NHS professionals (test within 72 hours of visit), CQC inspectors (test from same day as visit) and any professional, family or friend visiting to deliver personal care (same day as visit).  We are able to facilitate your test on arrival, however this process requires a considerable number of extra resources and not all our locations have a room suitable to undertake the tests. For this reason, our preference is for visitors to test at home prior to their visit.  The home kits can be provided by us for visiting family and friends.  Tests undertaken at home must be registered and you will require a UON number from us to do this.  We can provide instructions for completing and registering tests and will support you to do this the first few times if required.
  • Visitors who have had Covid-19, have completed their isolation period and are not showing any new signs of the virus, will be exempt from testing with PCRS only.  Where applicable a negative lateral flow test result with still be required on the day of the visit.
  • Visitors will need to complete a consent form before every rapid test if we are completing this for you.
  • If a visitor tests positive, they will be required to return home immediately, avoid use of public transport and isolate. Follow up PCR tests are no longer required following a positive lateral flow test.

Out of home visits

There are no longer any requirements for service users to isolate following visits out of the home.  The only time a service user will be required to isolate is when they are discharged from hospital from a ward where there was an active outbreak of Covid 19 or when a service user tests positive for Covid 19 themselves.  This means that service users can be supported to spend time outdoors, visit family (including for overnight stays), go to work, take part in education or training and go to a day centre or a place of worship. Service users will usually be accompanied by a support worker or one of their regular visitors.  They may go alone if they are able to do this.

All out of home visits increase transmission risks for service users and staff so we will continue to apply the following precautions:

  • risk assessments will be completed for out of home visits and will take account of the vaccination status of the service users, visitors and staff, the mode of transport the service user intends to take, where the service user intends to go and the activities, they will take part in during the out of home visit. The assessment will also take account of local levels of infection and variants of concern in the community.
  • anyone involved in supporting visits should recognise the risk that introducing Covid-19 to a home has for everyone living and working there.  Prior to out of home visits, particularly those taking place at a family home it is expected that suitable precautions will be taken to minimise risks.  This will include informing us and cancelling the visit if you are unwell, wearing face coverings, avoiding crowded places, practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene.  managers should discuss arrangements with service users and their visitors in advance.
  • sensible precautions should be taken during visits.  Careful consideration about the places visited and activities undertaken should be given e.g., a busy indoor space where close contact cannot be avoided will increase transmission risks.  Wider guidance about maintaining good ventilation, limiting close contact, practicing good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene should be followed at all times.
  • It is safer if visits avoid the use of public transport.
  • service users and those they are visiting should, if possible, have both their vaccinations and a booster.

LAS 13/04/22