Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Open with Care: advice on practicalities

Published: 15 Jul 2021

Supplementary information including answers to practical questions and concerns resulting from Open with Care: supporting meaningful contact and activities in and away from care homes.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Open with Care: advice on practicalities
Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE for visitors

A fluid resistant surgical mask (FRSM) is recommended for people visiting indoors but a person centred approach is recommended to take account of individual needs. If masks aren’t used indoors it is recommended that physical distancing is maintained.

Gloves are not required as hand hygiene is sufficient to remove the COVID-19 virus. Aprons are not required, nor must the resident and visitor sit two metres apart for the whole visit.

Masks can be removed so that tea and food can be shared together between visitor and resident in their own room.

Physical touch, including brief hugs and embraces, should also be supported when a fluid resistant surgical mask is worn by the person visiting and good hand hygiene is observed.

In Level 0, masks do not need to be worn outdoors.

PPE for residents outside and away from the care home

We appreciate that residents will meet others outdoors (in the care home grounds or elsewhere, such as park or family garden) and in indoor / enclosed spaces away from the home.

Mask wearing is not a requirement for visitors or residents when seeing others outdoors, in the care home grounds or elsewhere, although we would still encourage distancing to be in place for at least some of the visit (while not preventing touch or contact). 

The levels of enclosure and airflow are important factors informing advice and masks may be appropriate if people are meeting in partially enclosed structures outdoors. Local health protection teams can advise based on the particular scenario or structure.

Visitors with medical exemptions for face masks

Visitors are recommended wear a face covering for indoor visits unless they are exempt from doing so because of specific circumstances. Read the details of when people are exempt from wearing face coverings.

Care home staff should not stop someone who is exempt from wearing a face mask from visiting. In these cases, staff should ensure that the area the visit takes place in has good ventilation, and with this and other protections such as testing in place, we recommend at least one metre’s physical distance is maintained where possible.

Use of clear masks

The care home supplies FRSM masks. Clear versions of these are not currently available and therefore are not supplied by the care home. However, if a visitor has a single use clear face covering  they may wear it to support communication, as an alternative to an FRSM. If a visitor chooses to wear a clear face covering, care homes should make visitors aware that it will not provide as high a level of protection to the visitor, unless it meets specific British Standards.

Residents use of masks within the care home, including communal areas

Residents do not to wear a FRSM or face covering in the care home, which is first and foremost their home. It is a resident choice whether to wear one. However, as adult care homes are homes to multiple vulnerable people and have a higher level of visitors both social and professional (as well as a variety of staff carrying out duties in the home) adult care home residents may benefit from wearing an FRSM as a final layer of protection in certain circumstances. The circumstances include when a resident is within 2 metres of another person, particularly if there is a suspected or confirmed outbreak within the home.  

Read guidance on the use of of face masks in care homes and social care.