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Department lifts RQIA Covid-19 restrictions

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The Department of Health has today lifted restrictions that were placed on the work of the RQIA because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RQIA – Northern Ireland’s health and social care regulator – was directed by the Department in March to reduce the frequency of its statutory inspection activity and cease its non-statutory inspection activity and review programme.

This temporary measure was introduced to minimise the risk of health and social care professionals and other visitors spreading infection within care homes.

Similar restrictions were introduced in GB and the Republic of Ireland.

With community transmission of Covid-19 now significantly reduced, the Department has been able to rescind the March direction.

With the rebuilding of health and social care services under way following the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the RQIA will be able to increase its activity across all areas of work.

It is important that this increased activity remains as safe and as flexible as possible. Returning to pre-pandemic inspection levels will not be immediately possible.

Whilst RQIA’s planned inspection programme was temporarily paused, RQIA’s inspectors – including registered nurses, social workers and pharmacists – continued to regulate services and respond to risks and concerns.

It reports that since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it conducted around 40 on-site inspections at care homes and domiciliary care services. It has also taken enforcement action against five services during this time.

In recognition of the threat from Coronavirus to older and vulnerable people, the Department of Health also “repurposed” RQIA from March to provide enhanced support to care homes and domiciliary care services.

In response, the regulator established a Service Support Team. This has involved RQIA inspectors and senior staff providing detailed advice and direction to care homes and domiciliary care services in managing their services during the pandemic period.

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