News

Care home visiting expanded

Published: 08 Aug 2020 14:13

Next stage of family visiting introduced.

Care home residents will be able to receive more outdoor visitors from Monday, 10 August, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has confirmed.

From this date care home residents will be able to have up to three outdoor visitors from no more than two households provided their home meets strict criteria, with infection control measures remaining in place.

Since 3 July care homes which have met this criteria have been able to allow residents to meet with one designated visitor outdoors.

A care home will only be able to permit visiting if they have been COVID-free throughout the pandemic or if all affected residents have fully recovered and no residents or staff have had symptoms for 28 days and the home is actively participating in weekly staff testing.

Visitors will need to wear face coverings throughout their visit and physical distancing and hand and cough hygiene will need to be adhered to at all times.

Care home providers have also been asked to develop plans on how they can safely allow one designated indoor visitor for residents within their homes. These plans must be submitted by 24 August and will be signed off by the relevant health board’s Director of Public Health once they are satisfied with the plan and the home meets all the criteria for indoor visiting.

Essential visits, including those involving end of life care, and visits for residents who are experiencing distress have been permitted throughout the pandemic and should continue to be supported by care homes.

Ms Freeman said:

“This has been, and continues to be, a very challenging time for care home residents, their families and staff. Care homes are first and foremost people’s homes and we are committed to reintroducing measures that allow residents to connect with their family and friends. But this must be done safely and with precautions.

“Progress has been made since we reintroduced one designated outdoor visitor earlier this month, and I am pleased the clinical advice is now that care homes that meet the strict criteria can now allow residents to have up to three outdoor visitors from no more than two households. 

“It is important that we continue to monitor this situation and that all changes within care homes happen incrementally and with real caution to protect residents and staff.

“At this point in time clinical advice is not to restart indoor care home visiting until the necessary plans are in place and signed off by the Director of Public Health. This is being continually monitored and I hope we can give a further update on this in the coming weeks.

“We are also working to identify the necessary steps needed to restart communal activity within care homes and to reintroduce external outings by residents. This is a complex piece of work and we will of course include key partners in this.”

Scottish Care Chief Executive Donald Macaskill said. 

“The last few months have been exceptionally hard for folks in our care homes and for their families, being separated with only limited, often virtual, contact. At the beginning of July we opened up care homes to outdoor visiting and I am very pleased that in our slow journey back to normal life we can shortly allow the careful start of a degree of indoor visiting subject to local sign off by Public Health Officials. As well as this, it is positive that an increase in the numbers able to visit residents outdoors is now possible.

“Throughout the restoration of family visiting, we have tried to strike the hard balance between getting people back to seeing and being with their families and keeping residents, staff and others safe from the virus. We are very aware of how pernicious this virus is so guidance and measures will remain in place to protect everyone.”

Background

Care home visiting in Aberdeen City will not change at this point. Local advice and measures for Aberdeen City is available online, including information on care home visiting in the area.

For more information, please read the coronavirus (COVID-19): adult care homes visiting guidance

For indoor visiting to begin care home providers have been asked to develop a plan that meets strict criteria. This includes ensuring adequate staffing and PPE and making sure staff are fully engaged in the weekly testing programme. When signing off the plans Directors of Public Health will also take COVID-19 cases in the area into account. It may be possible that some care homes will be able to complete their plan with all the clear requirements and seek approval from their Director of Public Health before 24 August. In that instance, assuming the care home met the criteria above and the Director of Public Health is satisfied with the plan the care home would be able to allow residents to meet indoors with one designated visitor.  

Further guidance on indoor visitors, communal activity, external visits by care home residents and the reintroduction of non-emergency healthcare services within care homes will be made available in the coming weeks.

Window visits, where care home residents can speak with friends and family through a window have been in place throughout lockdown and are still permitted, however these visits must be scheduled with the care home to avoid risk of increased footfall in the grounds and to ensure adequate support for residents. 

The 28 day period represents twice the extreme incubation period for coronavirus (COVID-19) and given the asymptomatic carriage is the safest estimate of when a home could be declared outbreak free. This is based on public health advice.