Care home residents visits are a welcome step, says sector

February 22, 2021

Care home residents will be able to be visited indoors by a single named individual from the 8th March 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 and make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.

What are the new rules on care home visits?

  • One nominated person will be allowed to visit someone in a care home, but must take a coronavirus lateral flow test before entry and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Residents will not be able to hug or kiss their relatives, although hand-holding will be permitted.
  • Guidance for care homes is expected to be published in the next fortnight.

Outdoor, pod and screen visits will also continue. This means there will be chances for residents to see more than just the one person they nominate.

The announcement has been largely welcomed by social care organisations and charities, however there is concern that asking a resident to choose ‘a single visitor’ could cause distress and it’s been hinted that close contact visits will only be allowed in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

The National Care Forum has been working with a group of charities to get the balance right in care home visiting and enabling meaningful visiting to reconnect people with their loved ones.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum said, ‘The National Care Forum welcomes the government commitment to put care home visiting front and centre of the road map for recovery. The NCF, working in partnership with all those passionate about care, have been raising the urgent need to reconnect people with their loved ones for many, many months now, and whilst the overall approach to visiting has incrementally moved forward, it is hugely important that this next step recognises the role of essential caregivers and ensures that people living within care homes have regular, sustained, and meaningful contact with one of the most important people in their lives.

‘NCF will continue to support our membership in moving as quickly as possible to implement these changes, and we call on the government to work with the sector to ensure that homes have all the support and resource needed to make this a reality for the hundreds and thousands of people living within care. Homes are communities, and relatives have always been an essential part of that community, having them back at the heart of care most definitely feels like an important junction on the roadmap.’

The Relatives and Residents Association (R&RA) has been campaigning to end isolation in care since September and the organisation wrote a letter to the Prime Minister last week urging that residents be reunited with their essential caregivers.

The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) welcomes the Government’s commitment to reopen care homes to visitors from 8th March, as part of the roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions. R&RA said the easing of restrictions is urgently needed and will begin the process to end isolation in care.

Helen Wildbore, Director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said, ‘R&RA welcomes the Government’s commitment to end isolation in care and is pleased they have listened to the voices of residents and their families. Our helpline hears daily from people for whom the past year of severe visitor restrictions has had a devastating impact and we will continue to campaign until ending isolation becomes a reality for all residents.

‘For many of our helpline callers, being able to visit and hold hands will be a welcome first step. However, asking residents to choose a single constant visitor for face-to-face visits will lead to heart-breaking decisions between family members and friends.

‘The proposals fall far too short of what is needed to end the distress of isolation for the most vulnerable residents. For people with dementia and other conditions, touch is crucial. If the roadmap only allows ‘close contact’ visits in exceptional circumstances as suggested – such as help to encourage eating and drinking – this fundamentally misunderstands the role relatives and friends play as essential caregivers in protecting resident’s wellbeing.

‘Finally, we are concerned little will change on the ground to reunite families until these proposals are deemed mandatory and set out in law. Only then can the Government ensure the promise of meaningful visiting becomes a reality for all.’

Visit the UK Government website for more information about the easing of restrictions for care homes.

The National Care Forum (NCF) joined colleagues Age UK, Relatives and Residents Association (R&RA) , John’s Campaign, Rights for Residents and the Registered Nursing Homes Association previously calling on the Government to resume care home visits by 1st March 2021. 


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