COVID-19: Visiting in Care Settings in Northern Ireland

Date published: 23 September 2020

Last updated: 11 January 2022

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



Visiting Arrangements for All Care Settings

The Department has developed guidance pathways to facilitate increased visiting in all care settings in Northern Ireland.  The guidance applies in all care settings here, including hospitals (incl. Maternity), hospices and care homes, and 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. The next scheduled review is due to be completed by the end of January. 

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 was agreed that we should remain in the “Gradual Easing” phase of the Pathway. The next scheduled formal evidence review will be undertaken in mid-February. 

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