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Visiting care homes in lockdown

As we enter the third national lockdown announced on Monday 4 January 2021 there is a sense of déjà vu about life under the toughest restrictions and a real feeling of loss where some have had a taste of social interaction and experienced a bit of ‘normal’ life. None more so than for those who reside, work in and visit care homes.

The guidance produced by the DHSC “Visiting care homes during Covid-19” was first published on 22 July 2020. It has been updated five times to reflect the changing restrictions, Covid alert and Tier levels. The last update on 19 December 2020 reflected the advice about visiting in respect of Tier 4.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) and (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 came into force on 6 January 2021 and expires on 31 March 2021.

The Regulations strengthen England’s Tier 4 restrictions. They confirm the requirements to “stay at home” as a public health response to the threat of SARS-CoV-2.

The restrictions on movement are by now well-known and one of the exceptions (Exception 4) to this is in respect of “medical need etc.” This includes:

“to visit a person (“V”) receiving treatment in a hospital or staying in a hospice or care home, or to accompany V to a medical appointment and P is—

(i)a member of V’s household,

(ii)a close family member of V, or

(iii)a friend of V.”

The Cabinet Office guidance for the third lockdown was issued on 4 January and updated on 6 January 2021. It provides guidance in respect of care home visits during the national lockdown:

Importantly it provides: “Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. No visits will be permitted in the event of an outbreak.”

Residents cannot meet people indoors on a visit out (for example, to visit their relatives in the family home). There is separate guidance for those in supported living.

The guidance “Visiting care homes during Covid-19” still applies and the requirements in respect of providers facilitating visiting in a risk managed way are ever more important.

Practical steps

Providers should review risk assessments in respect of visiting arrangements. These should consider the individual needs of residents and physical and other features unique to the care home. They should maintain a careful eye on IPC measures and use of PPE. In the event of an outbreak in a care home, visiting must stop immediately except in exceptional circumstances.


Disclaimer

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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