Care home visits during COVID-19 (coronavirus)

We're working closely with all adult social care providers in Barnsley to help them respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

All adult social care services are using personal protective equipment (PPE) and are doing additional cleaning of all surfaces. 

In Barnsley we've rolled out staff testing to anyone who is working in a care home.

If you receive services in your own home, you must contact your service provider to inform them if:

  • you start to have any symptoms of COVID-19
  • you're contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate
  • you've had a positive test result

Barnsley is currently in the very high COVID alert level (tier 3) category. This means that you should not visit a care home except in exceptional circumstances, for example to visit someone who is at the end of life.

If the COVID alert level changes to medium (tier 1) then visits may be possible, and the following advice would apply.

Are care homes in Barnsley open to visitors?

Barnsley is currently in the very high COVID alert level (tier 3) category. This means that you should not visit a care home except in exceptional circumstances, for example to visit someone who is at the end of life.

Before visits are allowed in care homes, the director of public health will provide a professional assessment of the appropriateness of visiting care homes in the local authority area, considering infection rates and the wider risk environment. The decision on whether or not to allow visitors, and in what circumstances, is an operational decision and ultimately for the care home and its managers to make.

Care home providers may have different rules for visiting different residents or categories of resident, if they think it is appropriate, based on assessing the risk of contracting COVID-19 in relation to each resident. The policy should explain:

  • any different approach applied to individuals or groups
  • any factors that are relevant to a decision relating to such individuals or groups (including shielding)
  • the decision-making process to be applied to these decisions

In making these decisions, the care provider should actively involve the resident, their relatives and  friends, advocates, commissioners and appropriate members of the multi-disciplinary team and, where appropriate, volunteers.

Do I need to have a COVID-19 test to visit a relative?

No, you don't need to take a test before visiting a care home.

If you're experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, or have in the last ten days, you should not enter the premises.

How do I travel to the care home?

We'd advise you to avoid travelling on public transport to the care home. If possible, you should travel by car or walk. 

What restrictions are there in care homes?

Care homes will be following strict policies and procedures to ensure residents, staff and visitors are safe. 

The care home should have good ventilation, ease of access for residents and limit visitors moving through the residential areas. An example could include the use of a conservatory as a designated visiting area.

Can I visit a relative who is on an End of Life pathway?

In line with the the national guidance, and at the care home's discretion, family members and friends should be able to visit residents receiving end of life care. This may include an 'in-room visit'.

How many people can visit a care home at any one time?

Care homes have been advised to allow one family member or friend, per resident to visit them in their care home. This means the same family member or friend visiting each time to limit the number of different individuals coming into contact.

Visits will need to be booked in advance and you should check on the day, just in case the situation has changed.

Keeping in touch with your relative if you can't visit 

Many care homes offer other ways for residents to stay in contact with their family and friends. Some of these include: gardens visits, window visits, drive-through visits, recording messages, using social media and video calls such as Zoom or FaceTime.

Please discuss with the care home the best way for you and your family member or friend to stay connected.

Can I take my relative out on a day trip?

Whilst Barnsley is in a the very high COVID alert level (tier 3) category of restrictions you shouldn't take a resident outside of their care home. This is because individuals from different households must not mix indoors. 

If the alert changes to medium (tier 1), it may be possible for visits away from the care home, but this is at the discretion of the provider and a risk assessment will need to be carried out. The information below explains how visits away should be planned and conducted safely.

Planning a visit outside of a care home

The top priority has to be the prevention of infection. This means that the care setting will work with you and the resident to understand and manage the risk of the proposed visit out. They will do this by carrying out a risk assessment, which will include these questions:

  • What are the levels of COVID-19 infection in the local community and in the area of the planned visit out?
  • Where is the proposed visit taking place, and how easy will it be to follow social distancing and hygiene rules?
  • How well is the resident able to understand and follow social distancing and hygiene rules?
  • How essential is the visit out?

How can I arrange a visit out with my family member/friend?

You should contact the home manager to discuss the plans, so that they can work through the risk assessment with you and your family member/friend.

Visits out should be pre-planned wherever possible and five working days’ notice should be given to enable the care setting to make the necessary arrangements.

It is important to know that if the plans include an overnight stay, the resident will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on return to the care setting.

If the risk assessment shows that the risk of a trip out is too high, the trip should not take place. The home manager will explain this to you and the resident. If this does happen, we understand that it will be disappointing but it will be to protect the resident and the care community.

Things to consider

To help reduce risk, think carefully about the visit and how it can be made as safe as possible for your family member/friend, and for you.

  • Think about the place you are planning to go to – how well will you and your friend or relative be able to maintain social distancing and hygiene?
  • If there are any children on the visit, will they be able to understand about social distancing?
  • Remember that you will need to take personal responsibility to ensure your own social distancing, wearing of face coverings and hand hygiene.

Whilst out on a visit the resident, with support if required, will need to consider COVID-19 hygiene and rules. The care setting staff will talk to you to about this, but here are the main things to consider:

  • Making sure the resident has the medication/aids they need and that they can be transported safely.
  • Following social distancing and hygiene guidance, including using face coverings.
  • Carrying hand sanitiser if washing facilities are not available, and spare face coverings.
  • Thinking about travel – it’s preferable to travel by private transport where possible, and face coverings should be worn on public transport or if travelling in a car with someone who is not from your bubble.
  • Hygienic storage of soiled face coverings (eg sealable plastic bag).
  • Making contingency plans if the trip is delayed, for example taking enough medication.

Returning to the care home

When the resident comes home to the care setting, the staff will support the resident to follow hygiene precautions, such as hand washing, changing clothing and cleaning any mobility equipment.

Suspending visits out

If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the care home, or any evidence of community hotspots or outbreaks any visits into and out of the care home will be restricted.