Government guidance updating policies for opening up care homes to visitors has been published by the Government.

The guidance

The published guidance seeks to strike a balance between safeguarding residents and recognising the mental health and wellbeing benefits of families being able to visit residents again.  The scales are balanced however in favour of safeguarding residents as an overcall concern.

The guidance states:

Directors of public health and care providers should follow this guidance to ensure policies for visiting arrangements and decisions are based on a dynamic risk assessment and minimise risk wherever possible.

This requires consideration of:

  1. the circumstances of the individual care home (for example, its employee availability, resident demographics and outbreak status)
  2. its local circumstances (local epidemiological risk, presence of outbreaks in the community)”

For care homes in England

The guidance sets out:

  1. the principles of a local approach and dynamic risk assessment
  2. advice for providers when establishing their visiting policy
  3. advice for providers when taking visiting decisions for particular residents or groups of residents
  4. infection-control precautions
  5. communicating with family and others about the visiting policy and visiting decisions

Directors of public health

The guidance places a lot of responsibility on Directors of Public Health (DoPH).  DoPH are key to decision making for care homes with the guidance stating the “…process of considering visitors should be led by the relevant local director of public health, who should give a regular professional assessment of whether visiting is likely to be appropriate within their local authority, taking into account the wider risk environment.

“Prior to visits being allowed in care homes in a local authority area, the director of public health will assess the suitability of a specified level of visiting guidance for that area taking into account relevant infection and growth rates.”

The guidance for care homes also deals with:

  1. The principles of a local approach and dynamic risk assessment
  2. Advice for providers when establishing their visiting policy
  3. Advice for providers when taking visiting decisions for particular residents or groups of residents
  4. Infection-control precautions

Check the guidance at regular intervals

Provider organisations, managers, family members, volunteers, advocates, informal carers, health professionals and others wishing to visit people in such settings, should check this guidance at regular intervals to ensure they are viewing the most recent version. This guidance supersedes previous guidance on visiting policies for care homes.

Stephen McCaffrey, lead counsel and expert social care barrister, said:

“Whilst the easing of visiting restrictions are a welcome change for families, it places a significant duty and responsibility on care homes and care home managers to ensure the process is manages properly.

“Care homes must be careful to ensure they follow instructions by local directors of public health and follow their risk assessments and Infection-control measures.

Failing to do this might lead result in care homes not complying with their regulatory obligations and lead to enforcement or regulatory action.

We offer a range of social care services including mock inspections and due diligence work. Care homes can contact us for advice on any regulatory issues.

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