All care home residents will be able to participate in more out of home visits from today, without having to isolate on their return, the Government has announced.
Residents will also be able to leave their care homes to visit a friend or family member’s garden, or go on walks in places such as parks, public gardens and beaches. They will not have to self-isolate when they return.
The Government guidance says that care home residents must be accompanied by either a care worker or nominated visitor and follow the Government guidelines of washing hands regularly, keeping social distance and remaining outside, in line with step 2 of the roadmap.
The changes come as the data shows cases continuing to fall, meaning it is now much safer for care home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, to leave their homes. The Government has said that keeping visits outdoors will ensure any risk is minimised as much as possible.
The guidance also included the following details:
- Visits out of the care home should take place solely outdoors, except for the use of toilet facilities, with no visits to indoor spaces (public or private) and avoiding the use of public transport where possible.
- An exemption will be in place for those who wish to vote in person in the upcoming local elections as long as they follow national coronavirus restrictions and measures in place at polling stations. While the majority of residents will have made use of postal votes or a proxy, those who prefer to vote in person can do so on May 6th.
- Arrangements in areas with high, or rapidly rising, levels of infection in the local community and/or variants of concern (VoCs) will need additional local advice from Directors of Public Health. Latest statistics show that 95% of residents have received their first dose of the vaccine and 71% have received their second.
- Residents who have tested positive, or who have COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate and would therefore not be able to leave the care home. In the event of an outbreak, all residents must self-isolate and visits out suspended to prevent the spread of the virus.
Prior to the full publication of the guidance, Vic Rayner, CEO of The National Care Forum, said, ‘This letter does give a welcome sense of light at the end of the tunnel, however, it is vitally important that the Government lays out a clear roadmap for those receiving social care in care homes that makes it crystal clear how long this tunnel is and what needs to happen in order for care home residents to be able to fully engage with family and friends – both within their home and in their communities.’
Commenting on today’s news, Social Care Institute for Excellence Chief Executive Kathryn Smith, said, 'It is good to hear that at last care home residents can now visit some parts of their community away from the care home. Before the pandemic, choice and control were always recognised as key for all people who draw on care and support services, including in care homes and this should still be what we aim to achieve. So these low-risk visits, where a follow-up quarantine is now not needed, are a welcome first step. It will be great to see care home residents voting on Thursday.
'Of course, there’s a balancing act to perform between keeping all people who draw on care services safe and providing that care and support in a way that encourages choice and control and we recognise that this is more so in group-living environments. This initiative though is a sensible start and let’s hope it will prove to be an important moment as the sector and society look beyond COVID-19.'
Visit the Government website to read the ‘supplementary guidance’ in full.
Tom Owen of My Home Life England reflects on how communities have supported care homes and residents during the pandemic and offers advice for providers on how they can strengthen their community connections.