Care home residents to reunite with loved ones as visiting restrictions lifted

The latest change means there are no nationally-set restrictions, but individual homes will continue to be able to set their own visiting policies

Published

Care home residents will be looking forward to reuniting with loved ones as the Government lifts restrictions on the number of visitors they can receive.

From Monday, those living in care homes in England will be able to have unlimited visits from family and friends, the Government has said, meaning they will be able to reunite with loved ones they may not have seen for months.

The Government first announced the end to national restrictions on care home visits in November.

However, it then imposed a limit of three named visitors, plus an essential caregiver, when the Omicron variant hit.

The latest change, announced last week, means there are no nationally-set restrictions, but individual homes will continue to be able to set their own visiting policies.

While the news has broadly been welcomed, homes currently with outbreaks will not be able to lift restrictions immediately and there are concerns others may continue to restrict visits or not have enough staff to cope with an increase in visitors.

Jenny Morrison, co-founder of the campaign group Rights for Residents, says they “remain fearful” for residents in homes which have not followed previous guidance instructing them to relax visiting policies.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged care homes have “a lot of discretion” over the rules they set, urging providers to do “everything they can to allow as many visitors as they can”.

He said: “If a care home needs to act differently because of an outbreak, then that is understandable as long as they are doing everything they can to allow the maximum number of visitors.”

Other changes include care homes only having to follow outbreak management rules for 14 rather than 28 days, and self-isolation periods will be cut from 14 days to 10 days for those who test positive – with further reductions if they test negative on days five and six.

Isolation periods for those in care following an emergency hospital visit are also being reduced from 14 to 10 days.

And staff will be asked to start using lateral flow tests before their shifts instead of weekly PCR tests from February 16.

Full guidance setting out further details on the changes is yet to be published.