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Visits to care homes: guidance for providers

Guidance for care home providers for adults and children on how to enable safe visiting during the coronavirus pandemic. This guidance also applies to supported living and extra care settings.

First published: 25 June 2020
Last updated: 
 

Introduction

This guidance has been developed following the changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 that came into force on 1 June 2020 and 22 June 2020.

This guidance provides suggestions of actions care and support providers can take and points for them to consider when supporting people who are using their service to reconnect safely with families, friends and professionals, whilst restrictions are in place.

Who is the guidance for

This guidance is intended for providers who provide care and support to people living / staying in care homes (adults and children), supported living and extra care settings. The guidance sets out an ethical framework as well as questions and points for consideration by care and support providers, to assist them when organising and providing care and support. 

When we refer to a ‘person’ or ‘people’, we mean an adult (s) or child (ren) living or staying in a care home, and an adult (s) living in supported living or extra care setting.  

When we refer to a ‘visitor’ or ‘visitors’ we mean family members, friends and professionals visiting a person at a care home, supported living or extra care setting.

Background

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Welsh Government imposed restrictions or requirements on citizens. These were put in place to prevent, protect against, and control the spread of coronavirus in Wales. 

The restrictions and requirements set out in the Welsh legislation are different in some respects from those elsewhere in the UK, so it is important you understand the law and guidance as it applies in Wales. If you provide care and support services in more than one UK nation, you must apply the legislation and guidance of the country in which each individual care home / service is located.

On 23 March, Welsh Government wrote to all care home providers in relation to restricting visits to care home accommodation. This was in response to the increasing pace of the transmission of coronavirus throughout the community. The purpose was to protect people living at, working at and visiting care homes.

On 1 June, changes to the coronavirus regulations came into force:  

From 1 June people from one household have been permitted to meet outdoors with people from one other household at a time provided they stay local (generally within five miles), and follow social distancing advice. Carers are considered for these purposes to be members of a household – so if for example one person in each household had a carer, both of those carers could also be part of an external gathering between the two households. It is important however, that advice on social distancing (staying at least two metres apart) and personal hygiene, is followed.  

Following the changes to the regulations, Welsh Government wrote to all care home providers on 5 June giving updated advice on how care homes can safely facilitate outdoor visits under the current regulations.  A copy of this letter is available here.  It was updated, on 16 June to reflect the Chief Medical Officer’s advice that face coverings are not required to be worn by visitors, when visits are outdoors and social distancing is maintained. Some visitors may choose to wear face coverings, and advice from the Chief Medical Officer to those in vulnerable groups has been to wear masks. However, this is not a requirement.

This guidance builds on the advice set out in that letter regarding facilitating safe visits.  

From 22 June, changes made clear that travel outside of a local area is permitted on compassionate grounds i.e. visiting someone where they are struggling as a result of the lockdown. For example, they may have a physical or mental illness, have suffered a bereavement or there may be concerns about their well-being or welfare.

Other examples of things that may be permitted include visits to people living or staying in care homes, in supported living services, or in children’s homes or young offender institutions. The advice by Welsh Government makes clear that the service provider will need to put in place appropriate social distancing and safety measures before allowing visits, and should be contacted before travelling.

More information is available at gov.wales/coronavirus-regulations-guidance.

Ethical principles

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant difficult decisions have been made under new and exceptional pressures. These decisions have had a personal impact on our families, carers and communities, and have a wider impact on the organisation and delivery of our health and social care services.

We recommend that care and support providers use an ethical principle based framework to support their ongoing response planning and decision-making in relation to COVID-19. The ethical framework needs to be considered alongside professional codes of conduct and the most recent applicable official guidance and legislation. An ethical framework helps to ensure that ample consideration is given to a series of values and principles when organising and delivering social care. 

A judgement will need to be made on the extent that a particular principle can be applied in the context of each decision. In all instances, respect and reasonableness should be used as the fundamental, underpinning principles that guide planning and support judgements. 

The principles detailed and defined below are not an exhaustive list and are not ranked in order of significance.

To read the full guidance please click here 

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