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New visiting arrangements launched

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Causeway Hospital
Causeway Hospital

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

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