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Covid-19 – visiting care homes at end of life

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): adult social care plan provides details of how the government will support the adult social care sector in England throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

The policy paper sets out the government’s plan for:

  1. controlling the spread of infection in care settings
  2. supporting the workforce
  3. supporting independence, supporting people at the end of their lives, and responding to individual needs
  4. supporting local authorities and the providers of care

The plan applies to all settings and contexts in which people receive adult social care. This includes people’s own homes, residential care homes and nursing homes, and other community settings. It applies to people with direct payments and personal budgets, and those who fund their own care. Click here for separate guidance for hospitals.

Amongst the promises which have been made the government has sought to address the publicity around relatives being unable to visit loved ones in care homes who are at the end of their lives.

The recent action plan states: “Whilst we have recommended care homes limit unnecessary visits, we are clear that visits at the end of life are important both for the individual and their loved ones and should continue. Our guidance has set out the steps care homes should take to ensure appropriate infection control during these visits. We will continue to work with the sector to develop and share best practice on how to enable visits at the end of life in a safe and compassionate way.”

The guidance referred to is the Coronavirus (COVID-19): admission and care of people in care homes (published 2 April 2020) which deals with how to protect care home residents and staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

It has been suggested that this is a change to previous guidance which advised homes to limit unnecessary visits but is apparently an attempt to assist flexibility in decision making whilst emphasising the importance of proper infection control. This will of course mean access to sufficient PPE which is still very much an issue in many settings.

Whilst the pledges which have been made very publicly have been welcomed by the care sector, there is cautious optimism about how practically such visits can take place. If there is adequate PPE this will help shape decision making and arguably this has been the position from the outset. As always, documenting decisions and rationale at the relevant time will be important.  For many providers the risks may simply be considered too great to allow any relaxation of procedures already in place.


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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