Increased visiting in health and social care settings from Friday

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 1:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 1:39 pm

New guidance that will facilitate increased visiting in health and social care settings in Northern Ireland will come into effect from this Friday, May 7, 2021, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.

The updated guidance for visiting will apply across all care settings including hospitals (including Maternity), hospices and care homes.

The new guidance is being published today to allow preparations to be made for its introduction.

Altnagelvin

The Health Minister said: “I fully recognise the importance of visiting for those who are receiving care. I hope this guidance will be widely welcomed.

“It is also important to remember that the threat from COVID-19 remains very real. Everyone has a vital role to play when it comes to safe visiting. That includes social distancing, hand hygiene and not visiting if you are feeling unwell yourself.”

The new visiting guidance is spread over two documents, with bespoke advice provided dependent on the category of care setting involved:

‘A Pathway to Enhanced Visiting’ sets out a new approach to visiting in hospices and hospitals - including Maternity and other services.

‘Visiting With Care – A Pathway’ was developed by the Public Health Agency, working with representatives from the statutory sector, representatives from various relatives’ groups and independent healthcare providers.

It sets out an agreed new approach to supporting safe and proportionate increased visiting in care homes. This includes updated arrangements for the safe management of care home residents receiving visitors, as well as residents being able to visit other households, community facilities and take part in excursions.

Minister Swann continued: “Visiting was only ever restricted because it was absolutely necessary to do so to protect patients and residents from the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent development of COVID-19 infection. Given the progress that has been made against the virus, the time is now right to take steps to carefully re-introduce visiting.”

The change in guidance for visiting is outlined below:

Hospice Facilities

One daily visit from two nominated individuals can be permitted at the same time, where this can be accommodated within COVID secure environments. NB: Any child admitted can be accompanied by both parents, or two nominated caregivers at all times.

Maternity Units

Maternity Outpatient Services: A chosen birth partner will be facilitated to accompany the pregnant woman to any pregnancy related appointments and ultrasound scans where the environment is COVID-19 secure.

Labour and Birth: A chosen birth partner will be facilitated to accompany the pregnant woman for induction of labour, duration of labour and birth and, for up to three hours after the birth.

Maternity Inpatient Services: One daily visit from one of two nominated individuals (from up to two households) can be permitted, where this can be accommodated within COVID secure environments.

Hospitals - General Wards Including ICU

One daily visit from one of two nominated individuals (from up to two households) can be permitted, where this can be accommodated within

COVID secure environments. Where the visitor requires assistance then no more than one additional person will be permitted to accompany them

when this can be accommodated within social distancing guidance.

Emergency Departments, X-Ray Units, Out Patient Departments, Mental Health Wards, Day Procedure Units And Learning Disability Wards

One person only to be facilitated to accompany each patient where the environment is COVID secure.

Cancer/Burns/Renal Units

Where possible, visiting arrangements should reflect the guidance for general hospital inpatient wards/units. However as some patients in these

units may be particularly immunocompromised the guidance can be locally defined based on individual risk assessment.

Paediatric Hospital Settings/ Neonatal Hopsital Settings

Any child admitted can be accompanied by two persons (either/both parents or two nominated caregivers from up to two households) at all times for the duration of the stay.

Care Homes

Increased number of visits per week to two; to be reviewed two weeks post implementation with a view to increasing to three.

Visits limited to two people at one time and lasting up to one hour. Visits to be accessible over a seven day period as well as after 5pm.

Children can visit and the responsibility will rest with the adult, and any child visiting will be included in total number of visitors

for the arranged visit.

Handwashing to replace use of gloves to enable handholding. Aprons and masks to remain.

Both documents are available on the Department of Health’s website (www.health-ni.gov.uk/Covid-19-visiting-guidance).