Cheshire East Council has welcomed new government guidance around changes to care home visiting arrangements that came into effect today.
The council is working closely with care homes to support them in bringing in these new visiting arrangements, which care homes have only recently become aware of and are working quickly to introduce.
Under the new rules that come into effect from today, care home residents will be allowed to have a regular indoor visitor as part of the government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions in England.
Residents with the highest care needs can also receive more frequent visits from a loved one, who will provide essential care and support (known as an ‘essential care giver’) and close-contact visitor care will be only be allowed by this person.
Outdoor visits, as well as those inside pods or behind screens, will also be able to continue, potentially giving residents the chance to see more than just their nominated visitor.
These new changes are significant as it follows the achievement of vaccination milestones by 15 February, when the governments’ targets for vaccinating the over-70s, the clinically extremely vulnerable and NHS and care home staff were met. Scientists believe that vaccines become effective after three weeks. This means that by 8 March all those who accepted a vaccine should have a good level of protection from Covid-19.
However, vaccination will not be a condition of visiting. Visits will also be suspended if local Covid-19 outbreaks arise in individual homes. When introducing these changes, The Department of Health advised that the relaxation of the restrictions represented a balance between the risk of infection and recognising the importance of visiting.
Commenting on these new care home visiting rules, Councillor Laura Jeuda, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “We are asking care homes to put these new arrangements in place from today. However, please bear in mind that it may take some homes a short while to implement the changes they need to get everything ready.
“Care homes will only be able to welcome a certain number of visitors every day. This is simply because visitors need to socially distance and to allow staff to help them take their lateral flow tests. You will need to make an appointment to visit and it may be a short while until the care home can offer an appointment to everyone who would like one.
“We are asking care homes to make sure they keep families and friends informed about visiting arrangements, so they know what to expect. We will continue to support local care homes implementing these new indoor visitor changes, as well as monitoring the impact of the new rules.”
The council is also working with local care providers to introduce new safety measures to help with these new indoor visits, these safety considerations will include:
- Visitors will be required to take a coronavirus lateral flow test before entry and personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn;
- Residents will be asked not to hug or kiss their relatives, though hand holding is permitted;
- Booking is by appointment only, so close relatives are advised to contact their local care home about becoming the nominated single indoor visitor (or essential care giver) as required and;
- The lateral flow test that visitors must take, takes 30 minutes to achieve a known result, so visitors are asked to spend this waiting time in their car or outside of the home.
Local care homes may also have their own additional infection control procedures in place, so it is recommended that residents check on the new procedures their loved one’s care home will have in place when arranging any new visits under these new rules.