This page was updated on 19 July 2021 at 4:30pm
We know how important visits are for supporting the health and wellbeing of people living in care homes and their relationships with friends and family.
We’re encouraging and supporting care homes in Sheffield to provide safe visiting opportunities.
When you can visit
It is up to the care home provider to decide if, when and how you can visit. They will only be able to welcome a certain number of visitors every day as visitors need to socially distance and take tests.
Care homes must involve you, the family member or friend you’d like to visit, and any other relevant professionals in all decisions about visiting arrangements. Where appropriate, care homes can share the risk assessments underpinning visiting policies with residents or their families to help explain the decisions they have made and their visiting policy.
You should discuss individual visiting arrangements with your care home.
Who can visit
Named visitors scheme
Care home residents can nominate up visitors for regular indoor visits. Named visitors should be agreed with the care home.
There is no limit to the number of visitors you can name. Residents should still identify their named visitors so they can be supported for necessary testing and support required to facilitate COVID-secure visits.
Families and residents should discuss this and agree who will be nominated. If the resident lacks the capacity to make this decision, the care home is encouraged to discuss this with the resident’s family, friends and others who may usually have visited the resident.
A person can only be nominated if this has been determined to be in the resident’s best interests in accordance with the empowering framework of the Mental Capacity Act. If necessary, social workers can be approached by the care home, resident or family to support these conversations to help resolve any issues and ensure professional support or oversight.
- should preferably be the same people for each visit
- must return a negative lateral flow test (LFT) taken on the day of the visit. This can be taken at the care home before being admitted. Visitors may be able to provide evidence of a test taken elsewhere. However, this should be agreed with the care home manager prior to your visit
- should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including a surgical mask for the duration of the visit
- should avoid close contact (they may be able to hold hands through gloves but will be asked to avoid any closer contact)
Visits involving children and young people aged under 18
Children aged under 18 can be one of the nominated visitors if the resident, family and care home agree that is appropriate.
Any visits involving children should be carefully considered by the family. Arrangements for the visit, in particular the numbers involved and where the visit will take place, must be planned and agreed with the care home in advance.
They must be able to follow infection prevention control measures carefully, including social distancing, PPE use (where appropriate) and advice on minimising physical contact. They must be able to follow instructions or advice from care home staff.
Any children visiting (apart from babies and children under the age of 2) should be counted towards the number of people allowed for a visit. Visits including babies and children under the age of 2 may take place with the agreement of the care home manager (these children do not need to be counted as an additional visitor).
Essential family carer
Residents can nominate an ‘essential family carer’, families should discuss and make agreements with care homes. Some residents need more support and may need a particular trusted person to perform some personal care tasks and enable the person to eat and drink well. Without this support, their health may be in danger of deteriorating very rapidly.
In this situation, the government will provide extra support to those visitors, whose visit is essential to the resident’s immediate health and wellbeing. With the agreement of the care home, these visitors will have access to the same testing and PPE as care home staff.
Existing visiting arrangements
Care homes can continue to allow visits for other loved ones through their existing arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, visits behind windows or outdoor visiting.
How care homes should decide on visits
Care homes must:
- take all steps possible to enable safe, regular visiting opportunities
- make decisions about visiting on an individual basis. Blanket bans on visiting are not allowed
- work with individual residents, their family and friends, and local professionals to find the right balance between the benefits of visits to people’s wellbeing and the risk of transmission of COVID-19
- complete an individual risk assessment and visiting or contact plan with every resident
- consider the rights of residents who may lack the relevant mental capacity needed to make particular decisions (eg deciding on who their single named visitor will be) and, where appropriate, consult their advocates or those with power of attorney. For example, some people with dementia and learning disabilities may lack the relevant capacity to consent to a provider’s visiting arrangements. These residents will fall under the empowering framework of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and are protected by its safeguards
- always allow visits in exceptional circumstances such as end of life, extreme distress or depression
- make visits as COVID-19 secure as possible
- pause visiting arrangements (except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life, extreme distress or depression) in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the home. If visiting is paused, care homes must keep residents, family and friends informed, and maintain alternative means of contact between residents and their loved ones such as phone and video calls
In line with the government’s COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 roadmap published last month, those on the shielded patient list can begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population. They are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. Letters with updated guidance have been sent to those on the Shielding patient list.
As long as visiting is delivered in line with national guidance, this will provide an appropriate level of risk mitigation and management. Individualised risk assessments should be completed for residents where necessary. This includes specific vulnerabilities as set out in the resident’s care plan. This may mean that some individuals should sensibly take a different approach to visiting than others. This would be on the basis of individual clinical advice.
Advice for visitors
You should follow any advice that the care home gives you when visiting. You should take all of the normal precautions such as washing your hands and maintaining social distancing.
Do not visit if you have tested positive for COVID-19, are self-isolating following contact or travel, or you’ve experienced any of the following COVID-19 symptoms in the last 10 days:
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell
Getting tested at care homes
You need to return a negative Lateral Flow Test taken on the same day as the visit. This can be taken at the care home before being admitted. Visitors may be able to provide evidence of a test taken elsewhere. However, this should be agreed with the care home manager prior to your visit.
If you test positive, you need to leave the care home immediately and self-isolate following government guidance. If the test has been taken away from your home, when returning home, you should avoid public transport and wear a mask. You should also complete a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This should be provided by the care home if you are testing on site or you can order a test online or by calling 119.
If you have a negative test, the national guidance advises that if you’re wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and you follow other infection control measures then some close contact may be possible. However, contact should be limited to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, which will generally be increased by very close contact, and you must follow any guidance the care home itself provides on physical contact.
Even if you or the person you’re visiting have had your COVID-19 vaccination, you must still follow the guidance above to keep yourself, your loved ones and the other people living and working in the care home as safe as possible. It is not mandatory for the single named person to have received the vaccination and vaccination will not be a condition of visiting.
Visiting outside care homes
Care homes should support residents to leave the care home to visit family and friends safely and in a way that takes into account the needs of all their residents and what is possible within the facilities and resources of the care home.
From 21 June 2021, residents should be supported to visit outside of the care home without the need to self-isolate for 14 days, following an individual risk assessment. Apart from in the following circumstances:
- following overnight stays in hospital
- following visits assessed to be high-risk following an individual risk assessment
All precautions relating to COVID-19 (including social distancing) should be followed by residents while they are out of the care home. Care homes should always support residents' visiting outside care homes in exceptional circumstances, such as to visit a friend or relative at the end of their life.
Care home managers are best placed to determine their visiting policies based on individual risk assessments. You should discuss visiting arrangements with care homes in advance of any visits by residents out of the care home.
You can find more advice from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Support with decision making
Care home providers, residents and visitors should work together. If there are disagreements about visiting arrangements, or you have any questions, please contact us for advice and support. Email email@example.com.
If you want to discuss your situation with someone independent, you can contact Healthwatch Sheffield. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0114 253 6688, 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
We anticipate this position will remain over the winter months, but we will keep our approach to care home visiting under review and communicate any changes to our position.
Sources of support
We recognise the impact visitor restrictions are having on residents, loved ones and staff and we have made a range of support available.
We encourage all loved ones to speak with care home managers who can signpost them to support. You can also find support from the Carer’s Centre and Age UK.
We recognise the impact on residents with dementia is even more significant, with the loss of physical contact even when visiting is allowed. You can read the MHA guide and receive additional support from the dementia team.