Government guidance has finally been published setting out visiting arrangements for care homes in England.
Local directors of public health will lead assessments on visiting within their authority area. They will be expected to consider the situation in specific care homes as well as the community, including any local outbreaks, the government said.
Where visits do go ahead, this should be limited to a single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible, the guidance said.
Care operators began shutting their doors to visitors in March due to the spread of coronavirus, with providers having to use technology to keep people connected over the past four months.
Scotland and Wales published visitor guidance at the end of last month and the UK government has come under criticism for not producing plans sooner.
Professor Martin Green, Care England chief executive, said: ‘This guidance should have been with care providers last month. We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector.’
It said the plans, which do not cover supported living or visits to a family home – due to be published at a later date, had insufficient information about local outbreak boards, volunteers and support staff ratios.
Green said: ‘This guidance fails to consider the issues around visitors and residents leaving the care setting. As lockdown lifts we are likely to see many care providers and relatives wanting to take their loved one out for visits. Also, we need to look beyond outdoor visits and recognise that these new conditions may be with us for quite some time.
‘The failure to acknowledge this nuance underscores the lack of governmental understanding of the complexities present within the adult social care sector.’
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said: ‘We are now able to carefully and safely allow visits to care homes, which will be based on local knowledge and circumstances for each care home.
‘It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes over the last few months while ensuring families and friends can be safely reunited so we have put in place guidance that protects everyone.’