New guidance for visiting arrangements in care homes in England

The long awaited guidance for establishing a visiting policy in care homes has now been published (22 July).

It sets out a framework for resetting a care homes’ visiting policy in a local area with support from the relevant Public Health England Director for the area, together with the care homes’ own policy. It also endorses the Care Provider Alliance’s protocol for enabling visits which was published last month in the absence of government guidance.

But prior to any visits taking place, the guidance says that:

“Prior to visits being allowed in care homes in a local authority area, the director of public health will assess the suitability of a specified level of visiting guidance for that area taking into account relevant infection and growth rates.”

However, the guidance does then say that a decision to allow visits is an “operational decision and therefore ultimately for the provider and managers of each individual setting to make”.

It is worth noting that the guidance while aiming to establish a visiting policy, it may also limit visits for certain residents, in some cases.

Commenting on the guidance, Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England says:

“This guidance should have been with care providers last month. We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector”.

Martin Green continues:

“This guidance fails to consider the issues around visitors and residents leaving the care setting. As lockdown lifts we are likely to see many care providers and relatives wanting to take their loved one out for visits. Also, we need to look beyond outdoor visits and recognise that these new conditions may be with us for quite some time. The failure to acknowledge this nuance underscores the lack of governmental understanding of the complexities present within the adult social care sector”.

The Department of Health and Social Care’s guidance says that it will be updated as the risk posed by the coronavirus continues to change. There is also a note confirming that guidance for support living settings is ‘in development and will be published shortly’.

To find out more on the guidance and what this means for care providers and for those caring for residents with impaired decision making capacity, head over to Alex Ruck Keene’s blog, Mental Capacity Law and Policy and read his insightful blog post, Guidance for establishing visiting policies for care homes in England now published here.

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