Statement

Updated 23 February 2022

Living with COVID

The UK Government announced plans for Living with COVID-19 on 21 February 2022, setting out the timeline for removal of the remaining legal measures in place to manage the pandemic while protecting people most vulnerable to COVID-19 and maintaining resilience into the future. The government has committed to updating social care specific guidance by 1 April 2022. On 22 February the Scottish government announced a staged approach to easing protective measures and lifting the remaining legal restrictions. Current measures in Wales are expected to stay in place until the end of March.

The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that current guidance for care settings must be followed in relation to self-isolating, testing, visiting and infection prevention and control. We appreciate your understanding in supporting compliance with the current guidance over the coming weeks and give our assurance that as soon as updated guidance is received we will update our processes accordingly.

Visiting Arrangements

The UK Government updated its guidance for care home visiting on 31 January 2022. There are now no nationally set direct restrictions on visiting in care homes and visits are expected and encouraged wherever possible in a risk-managed way.

England has returned to Plan A as the COVID-19 alert level in the UK decreases, and restrictions continue to ease in Wales and Scotland. The further measures implemented to limit the spread of the Omicron variant have now been removed, although there continues to be community transmission so some measures remain in place for people living in care homes which are intended to provide additional protection; including in relation to vaccinations, testing for staff and visiting into and out of care homes. We ask that no-one visits when unwell or displaying any signs of an infection, cold/flu, respiratory or COVID-19 symptoms.

As always, 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); therefore plans remain subject to further change, unfortunately sometimes at short notice.

More detail is provided below for visiting arrangements across the UK, but if you have any questions regarding visits into and out of our care homes do please speak to the Manager who can update you on the most recent changes to guidance.

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

Despite the easing of restrictions, the government confirms COVID-19 remains a risk and suggests that people continue to take action to reduce risk where possible e.g. wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet and follow . 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 and booster as soon as they are able.

People living in care homes are typically more vulnerable to severe illness as a result of COVID-19 so specific restrictions continue to apply to care settings and must be followed, including guidance on care home visiting. The latest guidance emphasises the Government’s support and backing for visits wherever possible but does set out additional measures which should be in place to keep staff and the people we support safe. In addition to visitors being asked to continue to wear PPE, visitors must test before visiting and continue to follow other infection prevention and control measures.

Visits into care homes

There are now no limits on the number of visitors permissible. Our managers are responsible for setting out the frequency and duration of visits, to support safe visiting in their care home. Visitors will be asked to continue to book appointments, take a test on the day of their visit, wear a mask throughout their visit and wash hands thoroughly on arrival. Visitors will also 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 control measures we have become used to will continue to be followed by our teams.

Visits at the end of life will always be supported. Please be aware that, other than Essential Care Givers, indoor visits will not be possible where there is 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.

Essential Care Givers

Every person living in a care home has the right for a family member to be assigned as an Essential Care Giver, especially those who are frequent visitors, and they can continue to visit even in the case of an outbreak. In addition to following infection prevention and control measures, Essential Care Givers are required to follow the same testing and PPE regime as our colleagues, including LFDs prior to each visit. The Manager must record these tests on our system. Please speak to the Manager if you would like to be assigned as an Essential Care Giver and they will provide further information.

Visits out of care homes

Visits out of care homes, including visits to family homes and for social reasons, will be supported where reasonable precautions and testing arrangements outlined in the Government’s guidance are followed. 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. This might also include regular planned overnight visits to the nominated family home for some people of working age.

The people we support (regardless of vaccination status) should not normally need to self-isolate following a visit out, but government guidance requires that a risk assessment must be completed. People should isolate for 10 days (with testing to end isolation sooner) following a high-risk visit out, including an emergency stay in hospital, or if they test positive for COVID-19 but can end isolation early in circumstances set out in the guidance.

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.

Medical exemptions and COVID passes for people we support

To ensure the people we support are able to continue to access the community and travel should NHS COVID passes be required, Managers are:

  • Applying for medical exemption from vaccination for any person we support where it would be applicable
  • Securing NHS COVID passes for people we support.

Scotland

Visits in to care homes

Care homes in Scotland continue to have a range of COVID-19 safeguards in place. Latest guidance has been updated to reflect contact being brought back to normal.  In accordance with the Scottish Government’s Open with Care guidance there are no limits on how often people can receive visitors in the care home. But visiting must remain safe and manageable for care home staff and the people we support themselves. Managers may decide the number of visitors (including children) that a person can have at any one time. Arrangements will be guided based on a number of factors. For example, the size of rooms and arrangements for managing visiting safely in the home. Anyone who visits an adult care home should take an LFD test. 

Should there be an outbreak, a named visitor may visit someone we support in their private room if the local Health Protection Team has agreed this can happen, in line with guidance.

Visits out of care homes

Care homes who do not have a coronavirus outbreak should continue to support people to take visits out in line with guidance. The people we support, family and friends who want to plan outings or activities should work together with the care home to arrange this. If people are spending time with someone we support outside of a care home the  guidance on staying safe and protecting others should be followed.

Wales

People in supported living have the same rights as everybody else to meet and visit other people, and the same responsibilities for their own and other people’s safety. Guidance on what you can and cannot do is available here; in addition we follow the specific guidance for supporting living. In order to meet an individual’s wishes to see people, a personalised approach is always adopted. People in supported living, visitors and family and friends are advised that their ability to see each other may still be limited following the assessment of risk and subject to specific circumstances. The reasons for any restrictions on visiting will be discussed and agreed with, and clearly communicated to, those in supported living and their families and friends. If you have any questions, please contact the Manager.

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 unwell in any way or are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 you should not visit – 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.

Access to some indoor facilities, e.g. bathrooms and kitchens, may 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 majority of the people we support and our colleagues have now had the vaccine and we are doing all we can to facilitate everyone receiving their vaccination and booster at the earliest opportunity.

Further information

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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