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New visiting arrangements launched for care settings across Northern Ireland




New guidance that will facilitate increased visiting in health and social care settings in Northern Ireland will come into effect from Friday 7 May 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.


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.”


Commenting on the launch of the new guidance materials, he added:


“I welcome the work completed to draw up these updated guidance documents and hope that by implementing them we will take another step along the road to recovery.”


Both documents are available on the Department of Health’s website:


(www.health-ni.gov.uk/Covid-19-visiting-guidance).

FULL INFO FOR NORTHERN TRUST


Following updated guidance from the Department, the Trust has reverted to the previous visiting arrangements as of 1 March 2021.


In response to the UK alert level moving from Level 5 to Level 4 amendments have been made to allow some visiting to take place in health and social care facilities.

Transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high so some level of visiting restrictions must remain.


The policies aim to balance all the potential risks against the unintended harm to patients and residents in respect of, safety and quality of care, quality of life, continuity of care, outcomes, and emotional and psychological distress.


General Hospital including ICU


One nominated family member or carer to be permitted access to visit face-to-face per week, where we can facilitate a COVID-19 secure environment.


Prior arrangement with ward staff is essential. Where the person visiting requires assistance this should be discussed in advance with the nurse in charge.


Maternity


Birth partner will be facilitated to accompany the pregnant woman to dating scan, early pregnancy clinic, anomaly scan, Fetal Medicine Department, when admitted to individual room for active labour (to be determined by midwife) and birth and, to visit in antenatal and postnatal wards for up to one hour once a week.


For further information, visit Maternity Services at the link below:


http://www.northerntrust.hscni.net/services/maternity-services/


Paediatric and Neonatal


Any child admitted can be accompanied by one of two nominated parents / caregivers at any given time for the duration of the stay.


Mental Health and Learning Disability


One person to visit for up to one hour once a week, or more where deemed necessary to support the mental health and wellbeing of the patient. Alternatives in line with visiting policies, e.g. outdoor visiting, virtual visits, designated visiting rooms etc.


Emergency Departments, X-Ray and Day Procedure Units


One person can be facilitated to accompany the patient only where the patient is unable to understand or communicate with staff.


Outpatient departments (OPD)


Only where the patient is unable to understand or communicate with staff one person can be facilitated to accompany the patient.


Cancer, burns and renal units


One visitor to be permitted to visit where the environment is COVID secure for up to one hour per week. Where the person visiting requires assistance and is accompanied by a carer, and this can be accommodated within social distancing guidance, then a second person may be admitted (prior arrangement with ward staff is essential).


Hospice


One family member of carer to be permitted access to visit, where the environment is COVID secure, for up to one hour daily. Where the person visiting requires assistance and is accompanied by a carer, and this can be accommodated within social distancing guidance, then a second person may be admitted (prior arrangement with ward staff is essential).


Care Homes


Where the home is not in an outbreak, visiting for residents should be arranged using well-ventilated designated rooms/visiting pods, with additional visiting arranged as outdoor visits, window visits and virtually supported visits. Where visits can only take place in a resident’s own room, this should be arranged where this can be accommodated within social distancing. End of life visiting can take place in a resident’s own room as agreed with the care home manager. Please refer to Guidance for full details, including deciding the frequency/duration of visits, visiting in an outbreak situation, and care partner arrangements.


Guidelines


Any visitors permitted access must maintain social distancing of 2m, attend to good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Visitors, and those attending appointments, are also asked to wear their face covering at all times. No access will be permitted without a face covering.


Children under the age of 16 will not be permitted to visit hospitals. In the event of exceptional circumstances, this can be discussed with the person in charge.


Visitors should stay with the person they are visiting throughout the visit, minimising movement around the hospital/care home and maintaining social distancing from other patients/residents and staff to reduce risks of infection spread.


Virtual Visiting


The Trust has produced a helpful guide to assist you with virtual visits:


http://www.northerntrust.hscni.net/2021/03/04/virtual-visiting-guide-for-antrim-causeway-and-whiteab


Information regarding Dropping off/picking up patient property


Details regarding dropping off and picking up patient property can be found here:


http://www.northerntrust.hscni.net/2021/01/27/drop-off-pick-up-patient-property/

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