Care home visiting restrictions eased
Visiting times extended for friends and family.
Care home residents and their family and friends will soon be able to enjoy longer visits together and greater personal interaction, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.
Updated guidance published by the Scottish Government recommends easing restrictions on visiting in a range of ways, including extending indoor visits from 30 minutes to up to four hours.
Outdoor visits can be extended to include up to six visitors from no more than two households, including children and young people, for up to one hour per visit.
The new guidance also supports increased personal interaction, including hugs or hand holding, as long as strict PPE and infection prevention control measures are met.
- personal interaction – visitors can support personal care and daily routine activities, provided this is agreed with the care home and takes place in residents’ rooms
- touch – enabling contact with loved ones with regular training and supervision for visitors to put on and take off PPE and safety guidelines
- family pets and therapy animals – during outdoor and indoor visiting, if agreed with the care home, and certain pre-conditions are met
- gifts and residents’ belongings – can be brought in by visitors, when agreed with the care home manager in advance
These changes will require careful planning by care homes so will be implemented once care homes are satisfied that they can be accommodated safely, alongside existing safety measures such as the weekly testing offered to all care home staff, and sample testing in homes with no cases.
Local PPE Hubs are also in place across Scotland through Health and Social Care Partnerships to support the social care sector with PPE supplies for staff and visitors, in addition to care homes’ existing supply routes.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“We know how difficult visiting restrictions have been, and it is only natural after six months of lockdown restrictions, that care home residents and their loved ones will want to see and interact with each other as much as possible.
“The Scottish Government has been actively working with Scottish Care and other care home stakeholders on a staged approach to re-introduce visiting in care homes in as safe a way as possible, while COVID-19 remains in Scotland.
“This latest guidance has been developed with input from family members, carers, and clinicians to offer greater flexibility in visiting arrangements, and indoor visiting in particular, as winter approaches. We will continue to actively consider how we can best support visiting in care homes, and protect those who are at most risk from this virus.”
Visiting in care homes is still subject to care homes being free of any COVID-19 symptoms for 28 days, actively participating in the care home testing programme and having visiting risk assessments approved by the local Director of Public Health.
Indoor visits are not affected by the new national restrictions announced on 22 September and 7 October. The First Minister has made it clear that visiting is vital to the wellbeing of people in care homes and their loved ones. Under the regulations care homes are not classed as private dwellings, so the new restrictions on gatherings do not apply to these settings.
The exception is for local areas already under additional local restrictions and where indoor care home visiting has been suspended, such as in a number of local authorities in the West of Scotland currently: these additional local restrictions remain in place.
Family and friends visiting can help by:
- Staying at home if you are unwell (new continuous cough, fever/high temperature, loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste )
- Arranging your visit in advance (and any changes)
- Face coverings – wearing these and any other PPE required by the care home
- Engaging with the care home – you are partners in care and share an interest in keeping your family and others safe
The care home will help by:
- Helping you to feel supported when visiting (e.g. informed, a safe and welcoming space, appropriate equipment)
- Open to your concerns and needs
- Managing visit appointments in a safe manner
- Enabling essential visits in partnership with you if your family member’s wellbeing is affected or they are reaching the end of their life
- Show you how to visit safely.
All care home staff are offered weekly testing, regardless of whether they have symptoms or if there is an outbreak in their care home.
Where a positive case is identified, enhanced outbreak investigations are undertaken, and where staff work between homes run by the same operator, testing also takes place in any linked homes following any outbreak in one home.
Sample testing is also undertaken in care homes where there are no cases.
Care homes will decide, wherever possible in consultation with families, on the safe and manageable arrangements for both care homes and individuals based on their own individual facts and circumstances and wider advice and support.