Care Home Visiting Guidance: How to Find Homes with Safe Visiting Spaces

Care Home Visiting Guidance: How to Find Homes with Safe Visiting Spaces

Posted by Declan Davey

Care Home Visiting Guidance: How to Find Homes with Safe Visiting Spaces

Looking for answers on what impact the new national restrictions will have on care home visits?

One thing’s for sure, there have been mixed reactions up and down the country to the latest lockdown rules... Groans of “here we go again...” Sighs of relief at the promise of increased safety... Or just plain confusion from the ever-changing guidelines.

Window visits are not an option during the winter months

Residential care providers are having to re-evaluate who they open their doors to, and you’ll want to know how to find out which homes are facilitating safe visits.

Keep up to date with today’s article, which will focus on:

  • Care Home Visiting Rules: The Latest News
  • What Exactly Are Care Home Visiting Pods and Screens?
  • How to Search for Care Homes with Safe Visiting Spaces

Care Home Visiting Rules: The Latest News 

The recent news on care home visit rules has – perhaps predictably – brought a swath of negative press...

Sky News doesn’t hold back with their story: 

“Coronavirus: New guidance on care home visits will 'literally leave people out in the cold.’”

Meanwhile, the BBC lead with a slightly gentler headline:

“Covid: Care home visits advice impractical, say charities.” 

The Alzheimer’s Society has lamented that government advice “completely misses the point.”

But what are the latest care home visit rules and why are they causing a stir?

In effect since national restrictions began on 5th November, here’s what the authorities outline on

“All care home residents in England should be allowed to receive visits from their family and friends in a COVID-secure way – with social distancing and PPE.”

We’ll do our best to summarise the key points that you should know about from the new guidance on care home visits:

  • The top priority remains to limit cases of COVID-19, so care home visits should be tailored to each residential facility

  • Care homes are “encouraged and supported” to offer safe visiting opportunities – particularly those who have not permitted visits since the first lockdown 

  • To promote safety, suggested measures include care home visiting pods, floor to ceiling screens, and window visits

While ministers claim these rules will let people safely see their loved ones, charity founders have raised concerns.

Julia Jones – who co-founded John's Campaign – urges that proposals such as window visits won’t be “meaningful” for residents.

She hits home that "when people are in the later stages of dementia, when people love each other... they need to hold hands." 

And the chief executive at the Alzheimer’s Society goes further by stating that the “prison style screens” are a “ridiculous” recommendation, in light of many with advanced dementia being bed-bound or unable to speak. 

Vic Rayner – director of the National Care Forum (NCF) – has balanced out the unfavourable response by saying it’s a “positive step” that visits have not been completely banned. 

However, she also went on to warn that unless urgent support is provided to care homes, the measures “will leave many, literally, out in the cold."

We’ve got to say this makes for rather grim reading, doesn’t it? 

Still, let’s try to make the best of the situation and examine how care homes can allow visits to take place.

What Exactly Are Care Home Visiting Pods and Screens?

Although plans are in the works to use testing to permit family and friends to visit care homes, potential trials won’t start until the end of November.

Until then, there are three options for residential care providers to facilitate visits:

  1. Visiting pods
  2. Floor to ceiling screens
  3. Window visits

Window visits seem to have taken the bulk of the bad press... 

Visitors wouldn’t be allowed inside the premises with this option, which could be challenging during the cold winter months.

“Care home visiting pods” promise a more comfortable solution for visitors. 

These state-of-the-art rooms installed by RCH Care Homes are equipped with sofas, speaker systems and fogging machines that disinfect the room after each visit.

An RCH Care Homes DayLodge safe visiting space
RCH Care Home Day Lodge

They’re set away from the main care home building – meaning that residents and visitors can enter through different entrances.

Floor-to-ceiling screens, too, are another alternative...

Care homes that opt for screens will keep visitors and residents in separate rooms, with a transparent glass screen in-between to stop the virus from spreading.

Virtual visits have become more prevalent during the pandemic

Where face-to-face visits aren’t possible, “virtual visits” by video call will continue to be promoted.

But how can you find out which care homes are equipped with a safe visiting space?

How to Search for Care Homes with Safe Visiting Spaces

Autumna has developed a search tab that’s designed to help you check if specific homes have the necessary facilities to allow visits.

The two main criteria necessary for a safe visiting space are:

  • Good airflow
  • Access via an external door

For instance, many care homes feature a garden room such as the one below at Fornham House Residential Home, part of the Healthcare Homes group. These structures are an excellent option for a safe space. 

Garden room at Fornham House Residential home
Find safe visiting spaces on Autumna

Need to search for care homes with safe visiting spaces in your local area?

You can do so by using this search bar on the Autumna website.

Enter the location and search for care homes, like so:

Autumna Homepage

The search results will appear. 

Under the Additional Filters drop-down menu, you can select “Safe Visiting Space.”

Then, scroll down and click search again. 

Autumna's additional filters include safe visiting spaces

The results will show you care homes that are registered as having a safe space for visitors.

Safe visitng space badge on Autumna

You’ll see the green icon with orange text, as shown in the Queens Court Care Home example above.

This safety-first search feature is part of our S.A.F.E. infection control initiative, which you can read more about here.

S.A.F.E. infection control on Autumna

We’d love to know – what are your thoughts on the new care home visit rules?

Are you a fan of the options proposed, or do you think the government isn’t doing enough with its care home visit guidance?

Regardless, hopefully this article has given you a clearer idea of what’s likely in the months ahead.

And remember, you’re more than welcome to contact our friendly team for advice or support:

Phone: 01892 335 330

The line is open Monday to Sunday (8:30am - 5:30pm Mon-Fri, 10am - 5pm Sat, 10am - 4pm Sun).


Thanks go to Declan Davey (Health Copywriter) for co-authoring this blog article.

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