- Updated guidance for social care to give local providers more autonomy over universal mask use and outbreak management.
- Providers can now carry out risk assessments to make decisions about the use of masks in adult social care and about measures in the event of Covid outbreaks in nursing homes.
- Outbreak testing has also been simplified for small care homes in accordance with public health advice.
Guidance on mask use in all care settings and on outbreaks in nursing homes has been updated to give settings the flexibility to ensure ongoing Covid measures are proportionate.
Previous guidance stated that face masks should be worn in care settings at all times and that care homes should seek the advice of a local health protection team in the event of a Covid outbreak, but this change prior to Christmas allows providers to further use their own skills and knowledge about appropriate measures.
Starting Thursday, December 15, providers can make risk-based decisions about when face masks are worn, and nursing homes can initiate their own outbreak risk assessments to make decisions about which outbreak measures make sense for them. their individual environments. Decisions about masks will be based on factors such as risk to specific individuals, whether the setting is in an outbreak, or the preferences of the person receiving care. Support remains available from health protection teams and other local partners for nursing homes when needed.
The testing guidance has also been simplified for small care homes to reduce the amount of testing that staff and residents must perform in the event of an outbreak. This, along with new flexibility for rapid response testing in these settings, is in line with the latest public health advice.
Social care settings will continue to be equipped with free PPE to keep staff and care recipients safe through the winter and protected from covid when needed.
Minister of State for Care, Helen Whately, said:
Fortunately, the darkest days of the pandemic are behind us. But it doesn’t feel that way for people living in nursing homes or receiving care at home, when many of the people they see are still behind a mask.
Much of what we communicate is through our expressions, our faces and our smiles, especially for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Many rely on lip reading, and face masks don’t make life any easier for care workers either.
That is why we are making this change. We want care agencies and residential homes to decide what is best for the people they care for. I hope this means that thousands of people who are cared for by carers will be able to see a smile this Christmas.
Care providers can now take a risk-based approach with decisions about the use of face masks balanced against the risk of spreading infection and considering any risks or benefits arising from their use. Nursing homes can make use of the new flexibility in the updated guidance on managing outbreaks and, in all circumstances, must ensure that visits between loved ones are allowed, and that each resident can have at least one visitor even in an outbreak. Outbreak measures should only be implemented if at least two of the covid cases are linked and should be proportional to factors specific to the nursing home, such as how well it is ventilated, how easy it is to keep parts isolated, and how vulnerable people are. In the home. COVID-19.
Providers must continue to ensure compliance with the guidance and be able to demonstrate this to the Care Quality Commission when requested.
People receiving care can request that staff wear face masks, and of course, staff should work in whatever way makes the person they care for most comfortable.
Vaccination remains the best defense against flu and covid, and with both viruses circulating this winter, it is vital that all eligible individuals, including care workers, come forward to boost their immunity and protect themselves and those around them. take care
Excellent progress has been made with nearly 45 million people vaccinated this year, including 16.7 million fall booster shots. It is important that caregivers and recipients are protected from illness so staffing and visitor levels can be maintained, and care services can remain safe this winter; that’s why the government has supported caregivers to get vaccinated by allowing them to be eligible at the same time as the people receiving care. Social care workers and other eligible people this winter can book their appointments for both a Covid Autumn booster and flu shot through the National Reservation Service or by contacting their GP.
The government continues to encourage care recipients and staff to take sensible precautions to protect themselves against infection this winter.