Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Health
It is important to note that nursing home providers are ultimately responsible for the safe care of their residents. Under Regulation 11 of the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2013 it is the legal responsibility of each registered provider to make arrangements for a resident to receive visitors, having regard to any risks that may present for the resident or other residents. Public health guidance has been developed in order to assist and support providers in this regard.
While the current guidance provides for visiting on critical and compassionate grounds, this new guidance now expands the scope of visiting on general compassionate grounds. It also refines the guidance across Levels 1 to 5, which now provides for increased visiting at Levels 3, 4 and 5, subject to risk assessment and no open outbreak.
Residents may be facilitated to receive:
- Two visits per weekwhere 8 out of 10 of every resident and healthcare worker in the nursing home has completed their vaccination schedule.
- There is no requirement to limit visits to less than one hour.
I have written to all nursing home providers, through HIQA’s communication portal, to emphasise the need for all providers to follow the revised guidance on visitation. The adoption of a holistic and person-centred approach, noting the key role that visiting, social connections and communication with family and friends has in the context of residents’ overall health and wellbeing must be sustained. I expect every effort to be made to ensure visits are facilitated to the greatest extent possible, in line with the revised guidance and public health advice. Providers are also encouraged to frequently communicate with residents and families on the matter of visiting and to respond to phone calls by family members, in so far as is practicable, given the constraints on staff.
In addition, I have requested that in the ongoing monitoring, regulatory and inspection processes, that the Chief Inspector of Social Services (HIQA) would place a particular focus, as appropriate, on the visiting arrangements in place. I have requested that, in the event that the Chief Inspector evidences any concerns of a systemic nature, that the Department would be kept informed of the issues and proposed responses to same.
Finally, the Department of Health also wrote to the representative body for private and voluntary nursing homes on 24thof March, emphasising the importance of all long-term residential care services making every effort to fully apply the suite of guidance that has been made available, to support providers to meet their obligations in this regard.