COVID-19: Visiting in Care Settings in Northern Ireland

Date published: 23 September 2020

Last updated: 17 September 2021

Covid-19: Visiting in care settings in Northern Ireland. 



New Visiting Arrangements from Friday 7 May 2021

New guidance to facilitate increased visiting in all care settings in Northern Ireland took effect from Friday, 7 May 2021.   The updated guidance for visiting applies in all care settings here, including hospitals (including Maternity), hospices and care homes. 

The 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 the current approach to visiting in hospices and hospitals - including Maternity and other services.

Following the completion of the most recent formal evidence review, it is considered appropriate to remain in the “Gradual Easing” phase of this Pathway (see table in Appendix 1 of the Pathway).

The next review is due to be completed around mid-October.

NOTE: In certain, prescribed circumstances, local decisions may be made by Hospices or Health & Social Care Trusts (HSCTs) to reinstate some restrictions for limited periods to protect patients, families and staff. This would include specific concerns regarding clinically extremely vulnerable patients or local incidents of infection outbreak in a hospice, hospital and/or evidence of rapidly increasing community transmission or outbreaks.  Hospices and all 5 HSCTs have agreed to follow a Protocol for introducing and managing the duration of such additional restrictions.

• '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.

Following the completion of the latest formal evidence review, it has been agreed that we should remain in the “Cautious First Steps” phase of the Pathway (see table in Appendix 1). 

A further review has been scheduled for mid-October and we expect to be able to issue a further update shortly thereafter.

The documents described which come into effect Friday 7 May 2021 are available below.

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