A statement from Andrew Cannon

Updated 21 July 2021

Following the latest developments in the phased lifting of lockdown restrictions, we are pleased to see some further easing of restrictions on visiting into and out of our care settings. As always, these visits will be subject to robust protocols and will only be possible in line with the Government’s guidance (see guidance for EnglandScotland and Wales) and therefore our plans remain subject to further change.

We continue to work closely with our homes and services to minimise the risks and ensure the people we support can receive visitors safely.

England

England moved to Step 4 of the roadmap on 19 July and a number of legal restrictions have eased. However, due to the rising number of cases, the government expects and recommends that people are cautious and continue to follow measures such as wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces and minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts. Follow this link for the latest guidance on how to stay safe and how to prevent the spread. The government is also encouraging everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they are able.

Specific restrictions continue to apply to care settings and must be followed, including guidance on visits and admissions in care homes. The Minister of state for Care Helen Whately, has issued a letter which emphasises the Government’s support and backing for visitors to continue to wear PPE amongst following other infection prevention and control measures to keep everyone safe.

Visit into care homes

From 19 July guidance that limited the number of named visitors people in care homes can receive has been removed. Our managers are responsible for setting out the frequency and duration of visits to support safe visits in their home. 

Indoor visits: The guidance includes that visitors will be asked to continue to book appointments, take a test on the day of their visit, wear a mask throughout their visit, wash hands thoroughly on arrival, and also advises that physical contact is still kept to a minimum.  Visitors will be asked to take a lateral flow test and should aim to arrive 30 minutes in advance of their scheduled visiting time to await the result before commencing their visit. Visits will take place either in people’s bedrooms or in designated visitor areas. All infection and prevention controls measures we have become used to will continue to be followed by our staff teams.

The Guidance has also been updated to reflect that every care home resident should be supported to have an Essential Care Giver for companionship.

Outdoor visits: Outdoor visits (where the garden can be accessed through a separate entrance) and non-contact visits (i.e. in visitor pods/window visits), can continue in addition to the permitted indoor visits.

Please be aware that, other than Essential Care Givers, visits will not be possible where there in a COVID-19 outbreak at the service. There may also be further restrictions placed on visiting by local Directors of Public Health, such as in a local community with high or rapidly rising levels of infection, and/or where there is evidence of variants of concern or variants under investigation.

Visits out of care homes

Visits out of care homes, including visits to family homes and for social reasons, are now permissible where a risk-assessment deems them to be low risk, in line with the governments visits out of care homes guidance . For some people we support, regular visits out may be part of the person’s agreed care/support plan, such as accessing care and support in day services, participating in community groups and volunteering, and this might include regular planned overnight visits to the nominated family home for some people we support of working age. The people we support in care homes do not need to isolate on return from a low risk visit out of their care home, including for example overnight stays or following a walk in the park.

However, the guidance mandates that people in care home still need to isolate for 14 days following a visit out that is deemed high risk, following a risk assessment, or after an overnight stay at hospital. If a person is admitted from a hospital or another care home they must also self-isolate.

The government guidance advises that public transport should be avoided. When making visits out of the care home individuals can travel in a family member’s car (to avoid exposing the person we support to those outside the household they are visiting) but good cleaning regimes must be in place before and after car journeys. Government guidance requires the family member to share evidence of a negative LFT on the day of the journey.

There are exceptions to this guidance, for example at end of life. Please speak to the Manager if you believe these exceptions apply to you.

Scotland

From 19 July, all of Scotland will move to Level 0 and care homes are encouraged to increase opportunities for good quality, meaningful contact with a return towards more normalised visiting.  People living in care settings in Scotland are now permitted more than two visits per and the designated visitor title has now been removed, in accordance with the Scottish Government’s ‘Open with care’ guidance; you may find their guidance and FAQs helpful.

Existing Open with Care – Outings away from the care home – additional guidance remains unchanged.

Wales

Wales moved to Alert Level 1 on 17 July, which allows up to 6 people to meet indoors, and expects to move to Alert Level 0 on 7 August. Guidance on what you can and cannot do is available here.

Safe visiting

When you plan for your visit, there are some things you can do to help us ensure it runs as smoothly and safely as possible.

Please remember that visits can only be made at pre-arranged, staggered times which are jointly agreed in advance. This arrangement is necessary to ensure we reduce the number of people visiting at any one time, to protect the people we support and the staff team. Before agreeing to visits our managers will complete risk assessments to make sure the visit is safe, and we ask that all visitors read and agree to our visiting protocols – the team at your loved one’s service will talk you through this requirement.

Ahead of your visit, please remember that if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 you should not come to the service, we will be happy to rearrange your visit for after your period of self-isolation.

On arrival at the service you will be asked to wash and sanitise your hands thoroughly and carry out a lateral flow test. Please be aware that we cannot permit visits without a negative test result. We are also required to record information about our visitors for regulatory and Track and Trace (England)/ Track, Trace and Protect (Wales) / Test and Protect (Scotland) records. Therefore, each visitor will be required to complete and sign our visiting proforma upon arrival.

Indoor facilities, e.g. bathrooms, kitchens, will unfortunately not be available during your visit so please bear this in mind prior to visiting.

The protocols we have established for visits are in line with Care Provider Alliance Visitors’ Protocol which is supported by CQC in England. If you have any questions about visiting arrangements, please speak to the Manager.

Vaccinations update

The vaccination programme is progressing well and the majority of the people we support and our colleagues have now had either one or both doses of the vaccine and we are doing all we can to facilitate everyone receiving their vaccination at the earliest opportunity.

Further information

Please be assured that, as the restrictions ease, we continue to lobby for the people living in care homes to enjoy the same freedoms as we all can, where this can be safely managed by individual risk-assessment.

You can find our latest updates on COVID-19 on our website at www.voyagecare.com/news/COVID-19-coronavirus-response/. For the latest updates on the UK’s approach to COVID-19 visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

If you have further questions or concerns, please contact your local service manager or alternatively our Duty Quality Co-ordinator at dutyqcmailbox@voyagecare.com or call 01543 484550.

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