That’s the message from Knowsley Council following the release of new guidance surrounding care home visiting. Released by the government, the guidance outlines in some detail what is expected from care homes and the circumstances under which visiting can be allowed.
As a result, the Council has confirmed it will focus its support for care homes to prioritise work to safely reinstate visiting as soon as is possible. This may differ for different settings who will each have their own individual challenges and circumstances.
Cllr Sean Donnelly, Deputy Leader of Knowsley Council and Cabinet Member for Health & Social Care said:
“We know just how much our care home staff, residents and families have been through this year. It has been incredibly tough for them all and I think all our hearts go out to the residents and their families who have been unable to have that human contact that is so important to us all.
Stopping visiting has been so difficult and I know that everyone involved wants to get back to a point where families and friends can connect in person with their loved ones.
However, COVID-19 is still with us sadly and so we have to ensure that plans and procedures are in place for the continued protection of some of our most vulnerable residents. We know that our care homes have work to do to make changes to accommodate the new advice and guidance but we will support them wherever we can so that visiting can resume safely and as soon as possible. We are also looking at where we can offer more support, for example if we are able to provide additional testing for visitors. We will consider all options available to us.”
The guidance includes the following:
- Care home providers must ensure that COVID-secure visits can be managed with step taken which meet the needs of the setting, residents, staff and families.
- In the event of an outbreak, visits should stop except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life. The home should remain closed until after the outbreak is over and the care home has recovered with safety measures reinstated.
- Care homes, where possible, should additionally consider results of staff and residents testing and be prepared to respond quickly to infections.
- The visit should wherever possible be a single constant visitor (with an absolute maximum of two)
- Personal Protective Equipment must be worn and social distancing observed
- There will be no ad hoc visits permitted
- Visiting spaces should be only used by one resident and visiting party at a time and cleaning and time intervals between visits
- Visits should take place outside if possible
- Where temporary outside structures are not possible, a dedicated room accessible from the outside can be used, with a ‘substantial’ screen, good ventilation and consideration of the use of speakers or assisted hearing devices where this will aid communication.
All care homes will be expected to complete a full risk assessment which will take into consideration the individual circumstances of the home and its residents. From this, they will be expected to implement any required changes. Given the complex conditions and circumstances in some instances there may be a need to develop tailored visiting policies for individuals. For example those with additional needs or those receiving end of life care.
Cllr Donnelly added:
“There is a lot of information for our care homes to work through and we know that each home will have its own unique set of challenges. For example, some may already have a suitable space to allow for safe visiting whereas other may require building work or additional investment. Some care homes are independent and others managed by larger groups that may have more resources available to them to make these changes happen faster than others.
I am sure that there will be no one solution for all and it will be difficult but with our support and advice I hope we will be able to work through this together.”