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First careful steps to restoring vital contact as limited indoor visiting is set to begin in some care homes

Published: Tuesday, 15 December 2020

First careful steps to restoring vital contact as limited indoor visiting is set to begin in some care homes

NHS Lanarkshire and partners are set to take the first careful steps to reintroducing indoor visiting in care homes.

Some care homes, which are in a safe position to do so, have received a recommendation to reintroduce limited general indoor visiting from this Saturday, 12 December 2020.

One designated visitor will be able to visit once per week for 30 minutes. Physical distancing (of at least two metres) should be maintained during visits with appropriate PPE in place.

NHS Lanarkshire’s Director of Public Health, Gabe Docherty, said: “The reintroduction of limited visiting marks the first very careful steps to begin to restore vital contact indoors between residents and their families across Lanarkshire.

“We recognise how profoundly challenging and difficult restrictions on visiting have been on residents and their families and we fully sympathise with that.

“Accordingly, I have been very keen that indoor visiting is reinstated as soon as there was evidence that it was safe to do so.

“Our unmitigated focus has been, and continues to be, on resident and staff safety, which will underpin this process.”

The developments come after confirmation that level four restrictions will be removed on North and South Lanarkshire on Friday 11 December 2020 at 6pm. These restrictions meant only window and garden visits, along with essential visits where appropriate, were able to take place providing there was no outbreak at the care home.

As restrictions drop to level three, NHS Lanarkshire and Health and Social Care Partners have been, in recent weeks and months, supporting care homes to make the reintroduction of indoor visiting as safe as possible. This ongoing process has involved a rigorous programme of preparations and risk assessments across all care homes.

All care homes in Lanarkshire have been notified of whether or not limited indoor visiting is recommended at this stage. They are now liaising directly with residents and their families.

Visitors should note that this reintroduction is gradual, at the care home manager’s discretion and they should liaise directly with the care home in advance to arrange a visit.

Due to staffing and practical considerations, some care homes where a recommendation has been made to reintroduce visiting, may not be able to start limited general visits specifically on December 12. NHS Lanarkshire and partners thank people for their patience and forbearance as care homes work hard to host visitors safely.

The position for care homes where there is no recommendation to reintroduce indoor visiting, at this time, will be reviewed every two weeks. NHS Lanarkshire and Health and Social Care Partners continue to work closely with all care homes in Lanarkshire, to support broadening the reinstatement of limited general indoor visiting. Window and garden visits, along with essential visits where appropriate, are still able to take place (providing there is no outbreak at the care home.)

Mr Docherty continued: “The position where we can recommend a slight relaxation to indoor visiting restrictions in some care homes is testament to the hard work, resilience and commitment of all care home staff and partners involved.

“It is vital, however, that everyone plays their part and members of the public should continue to adhere to all guidance to keep driving prevalence of the virus down.”

In care homes where limited visiting is permitted, designated visitors should adhere to hand hygiene and physical distancing measures.  It is recommended that visitors wear a fluid-resistant surgical mask rather than a face covering, which can be provided by the care home. During the visit, residents should wear a fluid-resistant surgical mask if they choose to and it can be tolerated. 

Frequently asked questions about the reintroduction of limited general indoor visiting are available on NHS Lanarkshire’s website.

Full link: https://www.nhslanarkshire.scot.nhs.uk/carehomevisiting-12-dec-2020/

Director of public health urges public not to let their guard down.

The reinstatement of general indoor visiting from this Saturday in some care homes coincides with the announcement that lateral flow testing of designated visitors is to be rolled out nationwide.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for designated visitors of care home residents started this week with a trial across five local authority areas.

Lateral flow testing of designated visitors is being trialled in 14 early adopter care homes in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde, and Aberdeenshire.

Testing kits will then be sent out to all care homes from Monday 14 December once guidance and training materials have been finalised following the trial.

Mr Docherty said: “Testing will provide another important layer of protection against COVID, alongside the essential PPE and infection prevention and control measures already in place.

“I would stress however that it’s important to remember that testing does not and should not replace the other vital layers of protection we have against COVID.

“All of these – reducing contacts, keeping our distance, wearing face coverings, and vaccines when they come – work most effectively to stop the virus when they are used together.

“I would urge people not to let their guards down and continue to work with us.

“This will enable us to build on these small steps and, crucially, keep our residents safe.”