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Government guidance on infection prevention and control...

Contact with relatives and friends is fundamental to care home residents’ health and wellbeing and visiting should be encouraged. There should not normally be any restrictions to visits into or out of the care home. The right to private and family life is a human right protected in law (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights). In the event of an outbreak, each resident should be able to have one visitor at a time inside the care home. This visitor does not need to be the same person throughout the outbreak. They do not need to be a family member, and could be a volunteer or befriender.

Visitors should not enter the care home if they are feeling unwell, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19, are fully vaccinated and have received their booster. Transmissible viruses such as flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and norovirus can be just as dangerous to care home residents as COVID-19. If visitors have any symptoms that suggest other transmissible viruses and infections, such as cough, high temperature, diarrhoea or vomiting, they should avoid the care home until at least 5 days after they feel better.

Precautions for visitors

Visitors should be encouraged to wear a face mask when visiting a care home, particularly when moving through the home. Individual approaches may be needed as the wearing of face masks may cause distress to some residents. In circumstances where wearing a face mask causes distress to a resident, face masks may be removed when the visit is not in a communal area of the care home. Removal of the mask in non-communal areas may also be considered following a risk assessment if it is hindering communication, or in the case that the visitor is eating or drinking. However, other mitigations should be considered, including limiting close contact, increased ventilation (while maintaining a comfortable temperature) and transparent face masks. For more information on transparent face masks, please see the section above on face masks.

Some residents may need support with personal care from a visitor with whom they have a close relationship. This may include activities such as supporting someone with washing, bathing or cleaning themselves, getting dressed or going to the toilet.

Visitors providing personal care to residents are no longer required to test before visiting a care home. However, care homes should ask all visitors to wear face masks, in addition to other PPE if they are providing personal care, to ensure visits can happen safely. This should be based on individual assessments, taking into account any distress caused to residents by use of PPE or detrimental impact on communication.

Children under the age of 11, who are visiting a care home, may choose whether to wear face masks. However, they should be encouraged to follow the IPC guidelines such as practising hand hygiene.

Care home residents should not be asked to isolate or take a test following high-risk visits out of the care home including following emergency hospital stays (unless the hospital is in active outbreak – in which case, follow the advice above on discharge from hospital into a care home).

Visiting professionals

Health, social care and other professionals may need to visit residents within care homes to provide services. Visiting professionals should follow the same advice as in the section above on visiting precautions. PPE usage is recommended in line with guidance above. NHS staff and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors also have access to symptomatic testing and should follow the same guidance as staff about staying away from work if they test positive.

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