COVID-19 and Care Homes

23rd April 2020

The Patient and Client Council are here to help you navigate your health and social care. Our helpline has expert advisors answering your concerns and queries 7 days a week – ensuring you get the most accurate and up to date information from a trusted source.

We have recently received numerous queries in relation to Care Homes in Northern Ireland. We recognise that this can be a complicated and emotional issue, and should you wish to speak to one of our expert advisors for further advice or information please do not hesitate to call us on 0800 917 0222.
We are available 7 days a week, 8am – 6pm.

If I don’t have symptoms can I still visit my relative in a care home?

You should follow the advice given by whichever care home or nursing home you are visiting. People in their care may be at particular risk because of underlying health conditions so they may need to restrict visiting.

Why aren’t all care homes closed to visitors?

Unless and until there is a direction to close all homes to visitors, this is a decision for each
individual home to take. This is not as simple as minimising the risk of transmission of the virus. We know that care home residents and their families and friends really value the visits to and from their loved ones and to stop them suddenly may have an adverse effect on their emotional wellbeing. Each home will look at the risks and benefits and make a decision on the weight of the evidence they have.

If visits are restricted will residents still receive care from visiting professionals?

Yes. All health and social care professionals will continue their work in care homes. They will take all necessary precautions such as using protective equipment to minimise the risks of spreading the virus.

Can I visit my relative or loved one who is in a care home and close to the end of life?

As above, you should follow the advice given by whichever care home or nursing home you are visiting.

However, updated guidance published by the UK government (15th April) prioritises allowing relatives and loved ones to visit care home residents who are dying, and suggests that care homes should take the necessary infection control measures to facilitate such visits.

Homes have been advised that they may wish to:

  • Allow access to a visitor, if the resident was in a room easily accessed from the front door;
  • The visitor is not allowed to leave the room to walk through any communal areas, visit bathroom etc;
  • The visitor would be asked to wear full PPE – home staff would provide and show the visitor what needs to be worn;
  • The visitor should dispose of the PPE on leaving the home;
  • Whilst homes have been asked to be flexible where they can in end of life situations the final decision lies with the home and its management.

What is being done in care homes to stop the spread of Covid-19?

Health protection advice and support is continuing to play a key role in tackling COVID-19 in Care Homes Northern Ireland. The Public Health Agency (PHA) have long-established, well-trusted and robust systems in place to monitor infectious diseases and provide direct advice and support to manage outbreaks and limit onward spread.

The PHA have said:
‘Provisional data as of 20 April shows that there were 297 confirmed Covid 19 cases in nursing and residential care homes in Northern Ireland.

We take a precautionary approach to all respiratory infection cases, and individuals are treated as Covid-19 patients regardless of whether tests have been conducted or have produced a positive result. This mirrors the approach that has been taken in wider society, where individuals displaying even mild symptoms are asked to self-isolate. Although statistics are important they are of secondary importance to ensuring the right care provision and infection control measures are put in place.’