COVID-19 UPDATE | Please read the changes in guidance

COVID-19 UPDATE | New Government guidance change for use of face masks & testing

We thank all Colleagues who have consistently worn PPE including face masks for nearly two years. Please familiarise yourself and your Teams with the below updates, which we are sure will be a welcomed change:

On Thursday 15 December, the Government announced a change in guidance for face mask use in care settings. The announcement means care providers now have the flexibility to ensure ongoing COVID-19 measures are in accordance with their local environment.

With immediate effect, care providers can make risk-based decisions on when face masks are used and determine which outbreak measures make sense for their individual settings.

National Care Group has taken the decision to follow these government guidelines:

Use of PPE

From today, the decisions on whether face masks and PPE are worn should be made at the discretion of the Team in order to minimise the risk of transmission of Covid-19. The consideration are:

  • Appropriate PPE should be worn by care workers in all settings, as well as visitors to residential care settings, subject to a risk assessment of likely hazards such as the risk of exposure to blood and bodily fluids. Please ensure risk assessments are in place for every person supported.
  • Colleagues and visitors to care homes do not routinely need to wear a face mask at all times in care settings or when providing care in people’s own homes. However there remain a number of circumstances where it is recommended that colleagues and visitors to care settings wear masks to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. These are:

-if the Person We Support is known or suspected to have Covid-19 (recommended Type IIR fluid-repellent surgical mask)
-if a Colleague is in a household or an overnight contact of someone who has had a positive test result for Covid-19
-if the care setting is in an outbreak

  • If a Person We Support is particularly vulnerable to severe outcomes from Covid-19 mask wearing may be considered on an individual basis in accordance with their preferences.
  • Mask wearing may also be considered when an event or gathering is assessed as having a particularly high risk of transmission.
  • If the Person We Support would prefer our Colleagues or visitors to wear a mask while providing them with care then this should be supported.

Individual Colleagues and visitors may decide to wear a mask in scenarios over and above those recommended in this policy.

Outbreak management:

  • In an event an outbreak is identified, the care home should implement whole home outbreak testing and consider further measures which may include, subject to decisions by relevant staff within the care home:

-Proportionate reductions in communal activities
-Proportionate reductions in admissions
-Restriction of movement of staff providing direct care to avoid risk of outbreaks spreading between settings
-Proportionate changes to visiting: some forms should continue

  • Any measures the home chooses to implement must be proportionate, consider resident wellbeing, the care home’s legal obligations, and be risk-based.
  • If an outbreak is suspected, the care home should undertake a risk assessment as soon as possible to determine if the situation can be considered an outbreak and if outbreak measures are needed. The risk assessment can be undertaken directly by the care home provider with the expertise of relevant care home staff, with further support also available from the local HPT (or other local partner such as community IPC team, local authority or ICB, according to local protocols) at the care home’s request. The risk assessment should determine if the cases are likely to have been the result of transmission within the care home.

Outbreak testing changes for small care homes (1-10 beds):

Testing guidance has been streamlined for small care homes to reduce the number of tests Colleagues and the People We Support need to take in the event of an outbreak. This, alongside new flexibility for rapid response testing in these settings, is in line with the latest public health advice. The details are:

  • Small care homes no longer need to undertake PCR recovery testing of all staff and residents 10 days after the last individual developed symptoms or tested positive, unless advised by an HPT or other relevant local partner.
  • The outbreak can be declared over once all resident self-isolation periods are over. This does not alter when staff should return to work which is outlined in the COVID-19 supplement to the Infection Prevention and Control resource for adult social care.
  • Small care homes should initiate outbreak testing as soon as possible if two or more cases are identified as there is a higher likelihood that the cases are linked due to the close networks in small settings. Small care homes may opt to undertake both rapid response and outbreak testing or just outbreak testing.
  • Small care homes should continue to undertake rapid response testing in the event of one positive case to help determine if an outbreak may be occurring.
  • Small care homes can manage resident cases similarly to a household, with residents encouraged to follow advice for the general population

The following requirements remain in place:

  • Training competency assessments must be completed for all Colleagues regarding PPE use
  • Testing of people prior to admission into residential care homes remains

Find the new NCG Living with Covid Policy on Sharepoint here

For more information on the changes click here

To read the announcement press release click here

Thank you for taking the time to read what we hope will be the final Covid Policy change.

Karen Lewis
Chief Operating Officer