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Guidance on visitors to care homes

Visiting family and friends in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly challenging.

The decisions on allowing or restricting visitors have and continue to be very difficult. It involves finding a balance between protecting those we care about from the virus and trying to avoid or minimise the broader impacts on their health and wellbeing, which we know can occur from restricted visiting.

The government guidance on visiting care homes was issued on 31 July 2020 and whilst visiting is now permitted, it's important to note that visiting is still controlled. There will be a period of adjustment as this new guidance is understood and care homes develop new visiting policies.

The new government guidance provided advice on when visiting to care homes should be allowed, advice on how to develop new visiting policies suitable to current circumstances and details of who is responsible for these decisions.

The Director of Public Health's responsibility is to assess the local risk level from COVID-19 and advise care home providers whether visits to care homes can take place. This will take into account local data and so may at times mean that different measures are in place in different parts of the county dependent on the situation at borough or district level or at lower geographies if appropriate. At present the overall incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 remains low across the county and we have been able to identify and respond to any potential situations early. Therefore at present, our advice is that visiting to care homes may take place.

Care home providers have responsibility to decide when and how to allow visitors to their individual premises. This may include decisions on the types of visits possible, or the number of visitors per resident allowed. The government guidance recommends a single consistent visitor per resident. However, we have emphasised the need to take a holistic view, considering the wishes and needs of individual residents and the circumstances of their visitors.

At the same time, we should acknowledge that care home providers have to balance these individual circumstances, with the wider care home risk level, including the most vulnerable residents. Each care home will be making these decisions based on risk assessments of their individual premises, so it's possible that visiting options may differ between care homes.

As we move forwards, it's important to remember that the level of risk from COVID-19 can change and therefore we need to bear in mind that the level of visitation to care homes may continue to change. We'll continue to review the local data across Derbyshire daily and communicate any likely changes in a timely manner.

We recommend that family and friends work with your relevant care home to put in place a suitable visiting plan, underpinned by an appropriate risk assessment.