Care home residents will be able to be visited indoors by a single, named individual from March 8 as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions.
The scheme will allow a single visitor to hold hands indoors with their relative or contact in a care home and make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.
Every resident will have the opportunity to name one individual, who will be required to have a test beforehand, wear PPE during the visit and avoid close contact.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know how important visiting a loved one is and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes.
“This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.”
Restrictions on visits have been in place during national lockdown to protect vulnerable residents. While coronavirus cases remain high, the number of infections is falling. The UK’s vaccination programme has seen every care home resident offered a jab, with almost 17 million vaccinations carried out in total.
Outdoor, pod and screen visits will be able to continue in line with the published guidance which has been in place during lockdown, meaning residents could see more than just the one person they nominate.
It is a step towards regular indoor visits resuming.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said:” One of the hardest things during this pandemic has been seeing families desperate to be reunited with their loved ones kept apart and I absolutely want to bring them back together.
“Throughout this pandemic we have sought clinical guidance on how visits can be conducted safely.
“We had to restrict the majority of visiting when the new variant was discovered but we have done all we can to enable visits to continue in some form. That includes providing funding towards costs of screens and PPE.”
Close-contact will be restricted to visitors who provide assistance – such as help dressing, eating or washing – which is essential to the immediate health and wellbeing of a resident.
All care home providers not experiencing an outbreak will be asked to follow the updated guidance and continue to work together with families and professionals to ensure visits are possible The person nominated will remain unchanged while this step is in place
There will be discretion for care homes to allow more than one named visitor in exceptional circumstances
Home testing of single, named visitors will not be allowed during the start of the scheme but will be reviewed
Hand-holding is allowed but named visitors will be asked to avoid any closer contact
Vaccination is not mandatory and will not be a condition of visiting
In terms of visiting out, the rules and guidance will remain unchanged at this stage
Visiting will be suspended during local outbreaks in individual homes
Further guidance will be published before the launch of the single, named visitor scheme on 8 March