Questions and answers for visiting care homes

Please note this page is currently being updated.

General

The Department of Health issued updated visiting guidance for Care Homes on September 2022 – Visiting with Care -The New Normal

The Pathway was developed by the Public Health Agency, working with representatives from the statutory sector, relatives and independent healthcare providers.  It sets out an agreed approach to supporting visiting in care homes.

The Pathway sets out a graduated approach to ease the visiting restrictions in all Care Homes in Northern Ireland. The application of the Pathway depends upon:

  1. Normal Arrangements No active outbreak in the care home.
  2. Care Home in Outbreak A dynamic risk assessment of the care home to make decisions on the day-today running of visiting.
  3. Widespread Community Transmission/Increased The provision of a range of visiting options will be in line with the Pathway.

Table of Contents

1. How many visitors are allowed in the home at one time?

There are no restrictions on the number of visits or visitors.

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2. Do all visitors need to book in advance?

A booking system is not required, care homes may ask family and friends to book in advance if there is either a:

  • ‘situation of interest’ which is a single resident, a resident and staff member or two or more staff test positive within a 14-day period but there is no evidence of transmission in the home. OR
  • An outbreak is declared

This is to enable the management of staffing for visits by spreading the visiting footfall over the full day, including for evening and weekend visits

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3. Can visitors attend during mealtimes?

Yes, but please check with the home in advance to ensure

  • The resident is happy to receive visitors at meal times
  • A visit can be accommodated if the home is practicing ‘protected meal times’

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4. Can Children and young people visit?

Children and young people can visit. The responsibility will rest with the adult for supervision of the children, ensuring they adhere to all IPC measures as appropriate.

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5: What about visiting services such as hairdressers etc.?

Visiting professionals and service providers such as hairdressers can resume visiting residents when home not in outbreak.

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6: When can residents leave the care home?

There are no restrictions on residents leaving the home

The table below details the testing required for residents, staff, care partners and visitors to homes

Group

Guidance effective from 27 July 2022

Care Home Residents

No regular programme of asymptomatic testing for residents.

Permanent Care Home Staff

 

LFD testing to be undertaken twice weekly.

LFD tests should be taken 3 to 4 days apart, pre shift. If a member of staff is only working 2 days per week, they should take a LFD test on these days before beginning work.

Agency Staff

 

Should follow the same testing pattern as care home staff if working in a single care home for an extended period of time.

LFD test before commencing each shift in any new home if moving between homes.

Nominated Care Partners

Test Type:

SureScreen nasal only test kits.

Should follow the same testing pattern as care home staff.

 

Visitors

Test Type: Orient Gene or ACON Flowflex nasal only test kits

 Should undertake twice weekly LFD testing.

 

Visiting Professionals (HSC and non – HSC)

Test Type: Orient Gene or ACON Flowflex nasal only test kits.

Should undertake twice weekly LFD testing.

 

Advice on safer car sharing should be provided: Guidance for Health and Social Care staff car sharing for essential practice | HSC Public Health Agency (hscni.net)

Specific advice is provided at Appendix 1B of the Visiting with Care Guidance  www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/doh-visiting-with-care-a-pathway.pdf

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7. What happens if there is an outbreak in the home?

There are no restrictions for residents leaving the care home. General visiting should be discouraged until a care home declared in outbreak has received initial test results (usually Day 4 to 7 testing); this will confirm the extent of the outbreak and inform decision making in relation to facilitating general visiting in line with the process exemplified in the visiting pathway.

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/Covid-19-visiting-guidance

Location and length of visit during outbreak

There are no restrictions to the length of visit during outbreak, visits can be enjoyed in residents own room or other suitable space subject to risk assessment.

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8. Can I visit in the residents’ bedroom?

Residents should be supported to be with loved ones in their own room.

The visit should take place in an area of the room that is clutter free. Touch points should be cleaned after the visit, there is no need to clean floors following a visit.

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9. Can I visit outdoors within the care home grounds?

Yes

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10. How long is a visit?  

There is no limit to the length of visit

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11. Can visitors go to communal areas and participate in activities with the resident?

Yes, visitors are allowed to move around the home, with visiting permissible in residents’ rooms and in communal areas. However, in choosing where to enjoy their visit, due regard should be given to the feelings and concerns of other residents.

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IPC Compliance

IPC measures must continue to be maintained, including hand washing, environmental cleaning and appropriate use of PPE as per current guidance.

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12. Can a visitor access refreshments and toilet facilities?

Yes

13. Can I bring items into the home?

Yes

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14. Are there any additional disinfection for COVID-19 infection prevention and control?

Enhanced cleaning is in place across all care homes with increased frequency and The cleaning that is required to be undertaken by care homes is specified in the Regional Infection, Prevention and Control manual www.niinfectioncontrolmanual.net/cleaning-disinfection   

There is no need for care homes to go beyond this. Any further questions on cleaning procedure or products used should be directed to the PHA Duty Room.

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Personal protective equipment (PPE)

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15. Do visitors need to wear PPE?

Visitors are asked to wear a face covering. Other PPE is not required unless advised by care home staff. All visitors must have access to hand washing facilities on entrance to the home and should make frequent use of hand sanitisers. Care homes should not stop someone who is medically exempt from wearing a face mask from visiting. In these cases, the visitor should be made aware of the risk they present to the resident and the risk the resident presents to them

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Screening

16. What screening needs to take place when visitors arrive at the home?

None

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Vaccination

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17. Do visitors need to provide proof of vaccination?

No

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18. Can I visit a resident who has not been vaccinated?

Yes

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19. Is testing available for visitors?

Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) is available for all visitors and strongly encouraged as an additional safeguard in protecting transmission of COVID to residents; to note a significant percentage of people who are positive for COVID will not display any symptoms and therefore will not be aware that they are positive.

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20. Do staff and residents still need to be tested?

Residents no longer require asymptomatic testing, staff, care partners and visitors are required to test twice weekly with LFD tests.

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21. As restrictions ease for the general public, will they apply to residents?

Yes – residents on any trip out of the home must follow the guidance that is applicable to the general public.

22. When can I visit my loved one after they have tested positive?

Residents who test positive for COVID-19 can leave self-isolation from day 6 provided they:

•           have completed 5 full days of isolation;

•           are apyrexic for past 48 hours;

•           have a negative LFD result on day 5 and another negative LFD 24 hours later on day 6;

•           If either of the day 5 or 6 tests are positive, LFD tests should continue to be completed every 24 hours up to day 10. Isolation may be discontinued once 2 successive tests are negative or the full period of isolation has been completed (i.e. 10 days);

•           If testing is not feasible for the resident, they should isolate for 10 days

•           Residents who are immunocompromised are normally required to isolate for 14 days.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-people-whose-immune-system-means-they-are-at-higher-risk