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The government published new guidance on visits to care homes on 22 July 2020

Visiting care homes during coronavirus

The new guidance sets out that we must contact the local director for public health to get agreement that we can start completing risk assessments and reviewing our policy.  On Friday 24 July, we received confirmation from public health that we can continue to offer visits.

Today, we reviewed our visits policy in line with the new government guidance.  Although the new guidance mirrors our current visitor policy across many areas, there are a number of changes we need to make to our policy in order to make sure that we are following the current guidance.

  • We will only be able to offer visits for one consistent visitor per resident
  • We will complete visiting plans for each resident
  • We will be asking all visitors to complete a test and trace form and sign up to a ‘responsible visitor protocol’
  • We’re asking all visitors to wear face coverings (unless any exemptions have been agreed with the home manager)

We’re updating our visitor information and will publish updated information later this week.

In the meantime, here is a summary of what you need to know:

Image summarising change in policy for visiting care homes

The government has published new guidance on visits to care homes.

Visiting care homes during coronavirus

The new guidance mirrors our current visitor policy across many areas, but we will be working to review our policy to make sure that it is fully aligned with the guidance.

The new guidance sets out that we must contact the local director for public health to get agreement that we can start completing risk assessments and reviewing our policy.

We are currently awaiting confirmation from the local director of public health that we can complete risk assessments. Once we get this confirmation, we will start completing risk assessments and reviewing the visitor policy for each of our residential homes.

Our current policy will remain in place until this is completed, except for one immediate change:

From tomorrow (24 July) we ask that all visitors attending for pre-booked visits wear a face covering. The image below provides some information on safe use of face coverings.

Safe use of face coverings

As soon as we have completed the necessary risk assessments and reviewed our policy, we will publish an update to our website, Facebook and Twitter. We will send an email update to any relatives on our named contact lists.

The new government guidance does not include information about visits away from care homes (e.g. to family homes). The government is currently reviewing this and states that further guidance will be published in coming weeks.

We know how hard it has been for everyone while we have had restrictions in place on non-essential visits.  We’d like to thank you for your support during this time, and we’re excited to welcome you back, we’ve missed you!
 
We are now able to start introducing outdoor visits at all homes that have been symptom free for 14 days.  As with most things in our lives now, it won’t be visits as we knew them before COVID-19.  We are still in the middle of a pandemic, and the safety of our residents, teams and visitors is our main priority.
 
From tomorrow (2 July), our teams at each of the homes we manage, will start sending out information about:

  • Visiting options available at the home
  • Days/times that visits are available
  • How you can book visits
  • Safety measures that we’re asking all visitors to follow
  • What you can expect when you arrive

 
​We can only book a limited number of visits each week so that we can clean areas between visits and make sure we have enough staff to support the visits safely.  We also want to make sure that all residents who want to, have equal opportunity to see their loved ones. ​

  • ​You must book your visit in advance
  • Visits will be limited to 60 minutes duration
  • Only two family members from the same household will be allowed per visit
  • No children (aged 16 or under) will not be allowed at this point in time
  • Before you can attend your pre-booked visit, you will need to complete a health screening questionnaire​
  • Please don’t attend for your visit if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature, new continuous cough or loss/change of sense of taste/smell​) or if you or someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days

 
​We know that some of the things we’re asking you to do will be difficult when you have not seen your loved one for some time, but we believe they are vital in protecting everyone, so we thank you for your support.
 
We’ll be sending the information to all family/friends that we have listed as key contacts for residents and to people that have already registered their interest in booking visits.
 
If you’re not already registered and you’d like to add your name to the list, please contact the team at the home your loved one is staying at:
 
Bradbury View: 0191 216 5180

Tees House:  0191 281 3693

Chipchase House/Ferndene: 0191 238 1313

Leybourne: 0191 268 1790

Tyne House: 0191 281 8957

Wansbeck House: 0191 212 7861
 
We look forward to seeing you soon!

We promised we’d provide another update for family and friends about our plans to reintroduce face to face visits at our residential homes.

We’d like to thank you for your continued patience while we have had restrictions on visitors to our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are so grateful for your support and know how difficult it has been while you haven’t been able to see your loved ones who are staying in our Residential Services during the pandemic.

We are now really happy to inform you that we are gradually going to be able to facilitate visits, wherever it is possible or safe to do so. These will be outside of their Care Home and can commence in very limited numbers from 1 July 2020.

We know that you are all very keen to see your loved ones, and our priority is to keep everyone safe while supporting the visits.  We have been undertaking a risk assessment process in each service, to identify how we can make sure that social distancing measures are maintained during visits. In some areas that will mean that a barrier such as a window or screen will be in place between the resident and the visitor.  In most of our homes we only have one safe visiting area, we need to allow sufficient time to carry out additional cleaning before and after each visit and want to make sure that all of our residents have the opportunity to enjoy time with their friends and family.  This means that, initially there will be a limit on the number of visitors we can accommodate at one time and frequency of visits so that we can sure all residents who want to have the opportunity to have visitors. We’ll also be asking you to do support us with some additional safety measures:

  • We may need to temperature check visitors on arrival;
  • We’ll ask you to complete a ‘statement of health’ and leave us with ongoing contact details, so that in the event of a ‘track and trace’ being required, we will have the information we are required to keep;
  • You will be asked to wash your hands (or use hand gel) thoroughly before and after each visit, and
  • We may ask you to wear PPE including a face mask in some instances.

Please note that we are not able to provide refreshment or toilet facilities, so would ask that you consider these issues when planning a visit with us.

We will send out more information on Wednesday 1 July about how to book a visit with your loved one.  We kindly ask that you don’t contact us with booking enquiries until you’ve received this information.

Thank you again for your patience and continued support.  We are excited to see you all again soon.

Today we reviewed the restrictions on visits to our homes and on supporting planned stays away from our homes for individuals.  Here is the latest update:

Restrictions on visits to our homes
There is no immediate change to our restrictions about visitors; but are finalising plans for being able to offer visits at each of our residential homes.  Visits will either be socially distanced outdoor visits or where residents are in the living areas and can see/talk to relatives who are outdoors.  We will contact all families on Monday 29 June 2020 with more information about how we plan to do this in your service and when we can start to reintroduce face to face visits.

Requests for overnight stays to the family home

The changes announced by the government that households can have socially distanced overnight stays with households from 4 July has not yet resulted in any change to the guidance for care homes, which means there is no change to our restrictions on planned overnight stays away from the home.

The current guidance for care homes asks us to treat the whole home or household as a ‘bubble’ and keep it separate from other households in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To protect the safety of the residential bubble from COVID-19, we have to minimise the risk of the potential spread of infection by minimising how often residents leave the ‘bubble’ and then return, to protect all the members of the ‘household’ or ‘bubble’.  At this time, in order to maintain the safety of all residents, we cannot facilitate planned stays for individuals overnight with family.

The potential risk of contracting the virus when staying out of the home means residents have to self-isolate on return, in line with government guidance which is currently 14 days.  We don’t have enough space or staffing to be able to manage this isolation on a planned, regular basis for multiple residents as this could leave all residents at risk if we then don’t have isolation space to accommodate a symptomatic resident.

We know this is really difficult for everyone and would like to thank you for your patience in enabling us to prevent the spread of infection across our homes.

We will continue review this on a weekly basis, and in line with government guidance, and will also explore other options to support you to spend more time with your loved ones.

We promised to review the restrictions on visits to our homes and overnight visits with family for our residents.  Here is the latest update:

Restrictions on visits to our homes
We’re continuing to review the restrictions on visits to our homes each week.  There is still no change to our restrictions about visitors, but we are closer to a solution that will enable us to safely manage visits at an outdoor space (in a weather protected area).  We are also checking each day for any changes to government guidance which may help to make it easier for us to support this.

We’ll keep updating you on our position each week, and we will endeavour to stay in contact with all of our families and each service will make sure that arrangements are made for visits once restrictions are lifted.

Requests for short visits overnight to the family home.
The current guidance for care homes asks us to treat the home as a ‘bubble’. This means that we treat the home as a household or ‘bubble’ and keep it separate from other households in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To protect the safety of the residential bubble from COVID-19, we have to minimise the risk of the potential spread of infection by minimising how often residents leave the ‘bubble’ and then return.  At this time, in order to maintain the safety of all residents, we cannot facilitate planned stays overnight with family.

Our current policy, in line with relevant government guidance to keep households separate, is to ask for a period of isolation on return to the residential service (for example from a stay in hospital or returning from a long term stay in the family home while shielding), which will be assessed individually by the service manager, following the relevant guidance at the time (between 7 and 14 days).

We don’t have enough space or staffing to be able to manage this isolation on a planned, regular basis for multiple residents as this could leave all residents at risk if we then don’t have isolation space to accommodate a symptomatic resident.

We will review this on a weekly basis, and in line with government guidance.

We know this is really difficult for everyone and would like to thank you for your patience in enabling us to prevent the spread of infection across our homes. With your support, this is working and we are really pleased that to date, we have not had a single case of COVID-19 in any of our residential services.

Here is an update update about visitor restrictions at our homes and procedures for any residents returning to homes from other locations.

Restrictions on visits to our homes
We’ve had a lot of enquiries about when we’ll be able to re-introduce visits to our homes over the last week, following the government announcements about some relaxation to lockdown rules. Unfortunately, at this point, there is no change to our restrictions about visitors, which is in line with Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Government guidance on managing COVID-19 in care homes.

We know how keen you all are to see loved ones and we want to support this when it safe to do so, so we will be reviewing the restrictions on a weekly basis moving forward.

We are also working to ensure that we have the appropriate facilities available to safely manage visits while maintaining social distancing guidance in the future for the benefit of all of our residents and their loved ones.

In the meantime, we will endeavour to stay in contact with all of our families and each service will make sure that arrangements are made for visits once restrictions are lifted.

We know this is really difficult for everyone and would like to thank you for your patience in enabling us to prevent the spread of infection across our homes. With your support, this is working and we are really pleased that to date, we have not had a single case of COVID-19 in any of our residential services.

Returning to the home after a person has had to stay in another location temporarily
The current guidance for care homes asks us to treat the home as a ‘bubble’. This means that we treat the home as a household or ‘bubble’ and keep it separate from other households in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To protect the safety of the residential bubble from COVID-19, we have to minimise the risk of the potential spread of infection when residents leave the ‘bubble’ and then return, for example those who have chosen to return to the family home while shielding or to hospital for an overnight stay.

To protect the safety of all of the residents in the home, we will be asking for a period of isolation on return to the residential service, which will be assessed individually by the service manager, following the relevant guidance at the time. This period currently will be for no more than 14 days and no less than 7 days. This is to ensure that we remain in-line with the Government and CQC guidelines on households remaining separate.

 

Each time the government announces changes to the response to managing the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to consider what this means for our staff and service users.  When the lockdown was implemented in March, one of the significant changes was that we had to put restrictions on movement in and out of our homes.  This included restricting visitors into our homes, and preventing residents moving between their families’ homes and our residential homes.

We’ve had a lot of enquiries from relatives this week about when they will be able to visit their loved ones, following the government announcements about the next phase of adjusting the lockdown.  We know how hard it has been for everyone who is missing their loved ones greatly and we want to support families to reintroduce contact in person alongside virtual contact as we know how important this is.  We will look to do this where it we can support this safely, in line with guidance and based on individual risk assessments.  We have to assess the risks in relation to COVID-19, but we also have to make sure that any visits can be managed in a way that is in the best of interests of all of the residents, particularly where they may have been shielding difficulty understanding social distancing.

We’re looking at how we might be able to support this at different sites and will keep you updated.  In the meantime, if you are would like to register your interest in visiting your relative, please in touch with the registered manager.

COVID-19 Update Monday 11 May 2020

We’re sure many of you will have seen Boris Johnson’s update last night about the government’s staged plan to slowly begin to lift the lockdown as our risk levels reduce across the country.  There is no immediate change to our service provision as a result of the announcement.  The message is still that it safer to stay at home where possible. We are waiting for further guidance to be released about what the phasing in of students and service users will mean for us.  Once we get the guidance and have had time to understand what this means for our services we’ll be in touch with families.

Stay safe everyone.