This page was updated on 7 October 2021 at 12:11pm

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. 

Government guidance on care home visiting empowers care home managers to exercise their judgement when developing practical arrangements so that visiting can take place smoothly. Care homes are best placed to design individual arrangements that take account of the needs of their residents and what is possible within the layout and facilities of the home.

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

Care home residents can nominate visitors for regular indoor visits. Named visitors should be agreed with the care home.

There is no limit to the number of visitors residents 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.

Named visitors:

  • 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)

Essential care givers

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 personal protective equipment (PPE) as care home staff.

Outdoor 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

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, wearing PPE and maintaining social distancing.

Government guidance on care home visiting advises friends and family against going to care homes if the visitor is identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19. Where visits do occur, visitors should have received a negative PCR result prior to their visit, and a negative LFD result earlier in the day of their visit. You should discuss with the care home manager any risks associated with visiting if you are a close contact. 

Residents in care homes who have been identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to self-isolate as long as they are fully vaccinated, and can continue to receive visitors as normal (so long as the care home can receive visitors).

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 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.

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.

COVID-19 vaccinations

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.

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

For planned hospital overnight stays (such as elective admissions), residents do not need to isolate upon return provided they meet the following criteria. Residents should:

  • be fully vaccinated
  • receive a negative PCR test following their return to the care home (and isolate until the result is received)
  • complete daily lateral flow tests for 10 days following their return
  • avoid contact with other highly vulnerable residents in the care home

If there is an outbreak in the part of the hospital where the resident stayed, they should self-isolate for 14 days on their return regardless of whether their overnight hospital stay was planned (elective) or unplanned. 

Visits out of the care home that are not assessed as high risk should be supported, and not subject to advice to self-isolate on return to the care home, subject to 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 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 providercovid19@sheffield.gov.uk.

If you want to discuss your situation with someone independent, you can contact Healthwatch Sheffield. Email info@healthwatchsheffield.co.uk 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 (call 0114 272 8362) 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.

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