Visiting care homes during COVID-19

Updated 6 March 2021

The government has issued new care home visiting guidance that comes into effect from Monday 8 March 2021.

Visiting a care home must be supported wherever and whenever it is possible and safe to do so, except in the event of an active outbreak.

End of life visits (as defined by clinician) and essential care giver visits should always be enabled.

All visits must happen 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 PPE use.

In the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home should immediately stop visiting (except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life - and for essential care givers) to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors.

Read the full government guidance on GOV.UK - guidance on care home visiting.

Summary of guidance

Indoor visits

Each resident can nominate one person for regular indoor visits - as agreed with the care home.

Visitors must:

  • take a rapid lateral flow test and test negative before every visit
  • minimise physical contact with residents
  • observe social distancing and PPE use
  • follow all necessary infection control measures.

Other things to note:

  • one visitor with an appointment booked in advance
  • anyone with a positive lateral flow test must leave the premises immediately
  • it is strongly recommended visitors are vaccinated but this is not required
  • visitors may wish to hold hands but note covid risks of doing so and avoid close personal contact such as hugging
  • visitors who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 should not routinely be retested within 90 days unless they develop new symptoms and should use the result of their positive PCR result to show that they are currently exempt from testing until the 90-day period is over.

Essential care givers

Essential care givers assist with care and support needs that cannot easily be provided by a member of staff or not without causing substantial distress. For example, this may be intimate care such as help with washing and dressing where the resident becomes distressed unless it is carried out by a familiar loved one, or the resident will only eat if a partner or loved one is there.

In such cases, in addition to the single named visitor and with the agreement of the care home, the essential care giver will be enabled and supported to provide this care and they will be able to visit more often. They will have access to the same PCR and rapid lateral flow testing and PPE arrangements as a member of care home staff.

Essential care givers must follow the detailed guidance on testing, use the same PPE as care home staff, receive advice on wearing PPE an when to change it, be supported with training on lifting and handling, where they can an cannot go in the home. The agreed ways of working should be documented between the care home manager and essential care giver.

Outdoor and screened visits

The guidance for outdoor and screened visits is:

  • outdoor visiting spaces and screened visits can be made by appointment only with a maximum of two visitors
  • a visitor must wear appropriate PPE throughout the visit and have lateral flow test before
  • there must be social distancing between visitors and residents, staff, and visitors from other households at all times
  • the visitor and resident must remain at least two metres apart at all times
  • high-quality infection prevention and control practice must be maintained throughout the visit and through the wider care home environment
  • between visits, there must be appropriate cleaning and an appropriate time interval.

Care home considerations

Care homes should:

  • undertake individual risk assessments to inform the home visiting policy
  • consider relevant rights of residents who may lack the relevant capacity needed to make particular decisions - following government advice on caring for residents without relevant mental capacity, the MCA and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)
  • ensure the visiting policy is made available or communicated to residents and families
  • advise that care home visiting still likely to be limited in terms of length or frequency and that in the event of an outbreak visiting will only be possible in exceptional circumstances.