Last reviewed 23 February 2021
As part of a cautious easing of lockdown, every care home resident will be allowed one regular, named individual to visit them indoors from 8 March 2021, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
All care home providers not experiencing an outbreak of Covid-19 will be asked to follow the DHSC’s updated guidance and “continue to work together with families and local professionals to ensure visits are possible while continuing to limit the risk of transmission of Covid-19”.
Visitors will be allowed to hold hands indoors with their relative or contact in a care home. The individual will also be able to make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.
Rapid lateral flow tests will be required before entry, personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be worn on site during the visit, and other forms of close contact will still need to be avoided. Home testing of single, named visitors will not be permitted during the start of the scheme although this will be reviewed at a later stage.
The DHSC said there will be discretion for care homes to allow more than one named visitor in exceptional circumstances. Vaccination will not be mandatory for the scheme and will not be a condition of visiting.
Close-contact care will be restricted to visitors who provide assistance that is essential to the immediate health and wellbeing of a resident, such as helping them to dress, eat or wash. Existing guidance already allows these visits under exceptional circumstances. These carers will be supported by the DHSC by providing them with the same regular PCR testing and PPE arrangements as care home workers receive.
Outdoor, pod and screen visits can also continue in line with the DHSC’s published guidance, as they provide more chances for residents to see more people than just the one nominated visitor. Further guidance will be published before the launch of the single, named visitor scheme on 8 March.
When the new variant of Covid-19 was discovered, the majority of visits became restricted nationally, although some continued in some form. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.”
Independent Care Group Chairman Mike Padgham gave "a note of caution" that Covid-19 has not gone away and added: "We need some clarification, for example the announcement says holding hands will be allowed but warns against 'close contact'. How is that going to be possible? There is going to have to be some very close but compassionate supervision of these visits."
The Government will continue to provide free tests and PPE to support the scheme. To date, it has distributed £1.1 billion from the Infection Control Fund, an additional £149 million to support rapid testing and visits and £120 million to increase staffing.
The announcement comes as every care home resident in the UK has now been offered their first vaccination.