COVID-19: What you need to know when visiting a care home

Take a look at what the latest social care guidance means for visits to and from care homes.
Man in care home wearing a face mask

Last updated: 26 July 2022

The Government has now withdrawn its official guidance on visiting care homes and replaced it with recommendations to help providers keep social care settings safe for staff, residents, and people visiting loved ones.

Key recommendations for care homes

  • In most circumstances, there should not be any restrictions on visits into and out of care homes.
  • Where there is a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak in a care home, residents should be enabled to continue receiving indoor visits from one visitor.
  • End-of-life visiting should always be supported, and testing is not required for these visits.
  • Free lateral flow tests should be provided to visitors who help loved ones with ‘personal care’.

For the most up to date guidance, including information of what should be included in your care home’s visiting policy, visit GOV.UK 

Can I visit someone in a care home?

In most circumstances, yes. Unless the care home has an outbreak of COVID-19, there should be no visiting restrictions and providers should allow indoor visits to happen wherever possible.

Indoor end of life visits should continue in all cases, without limiting the number of visitors. This includes in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Every care home resident can also nominate one visitor who can visit indoors during outbreaks or when the resident has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Where a resident lacks the capacity to choose a nominated visitor, the care home should discuss the situation with the resident’s family, friends, attorney, deputy or anyone else who may usually have visited.

Have you had problems visiting a loved one? 

Tell us your experiences of visiting your loved ones in a care home and whether you have encountered any problems. 

Share your experience

Do I need to take a test to visit a care home?

The new guidance does not recommend that all visitors test for COVID-19 before entering a care home.

However, if you are providing any ‘personal care’ during your visit, it is recommended that you first produce a negative lateral flow test result. ‘Personal care’ may include activities such as supporting people with getting out of bed, washing, bathing, cleaning, dressing, and using the toilet.

If you are helping a loved one with this kind of support, the care home should provide you with a free lateral flow test. If you visit to provide personal care once or twice a week, you should test on those days either at your home or at the care home. If you visit more than twice a week, you should test a maximum of twice weekly, three to four days apart.

Examples of proof of a negative test result to the care home include a date-stamped photo or an email or text containing your test result.

What should I do to keep the person I am visiting safe?

All visitors to care homes may be encouraged to wear a face mask.. If you provide personal care for a resident, you might also be asked to wear other personal protective equipment (PPE). Any decision on asking visitors to wear PPE should be based on an individual risk assessment that considers any distress that PPE might cause the resident (for example, the impact it has on their ability to communicate).

Vaccination is also one of our best defences to combat infection from COVID-19. It significantly reduces the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death. If eligible, visitors are also advised to get their flu jab when offered.

Finally, it is advised that visitors should not enter the care home if they are feeling unwell, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated and have received their booster. Other illnesses can also be dangerous to vulnerable care home residents. In these cases, visitors should avoid entering care homes for visits until at least five days after they feel better.

How do I find out the visiting policy of a care home?

As the Government have withdrawn their national care home visiting guidance, there is nothing to require care homes to hold specific policies on visiting.

However, the new guidance states that “there should not normally be any restrictions to visits into or out of the care home” and that “the right to private and family life is a human right protected in law”.

This means that any restrictions on visiting must be proportionate and will be decided on an individual basis following risk assessments by the care home.

If you have any questions, you should therefore speak with the team at your loved one’s care home. They should be able to communicate their current visiting arrangements in an appropriate and accessible format.

What happens if the person I’m visiting tests positive for COVID-19?

If your loved one has symptoms of COVID-19, they should take a lateral flow test as soon as possible, and another lateral flow test 48 hours later.

All residents who test positive for COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not, should isolate in the care home for 10 days from when their symptoms started, or from the date of their test (if they have no symptoms).

Every resident should be able to nominate one visitor who can continue to visit them indoors during this isolation. Outdoor visits on care home grounds may also be allowed, depending on the layout of the care home.

What happens if there is an outbreak at the care home?

In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, it is recommended that care homes undertake a risk assessment to decide whether measures are needed, including any changes to indoor visiting guidance.

Whatever changes the home decides on, every resident should be able to nominate one visitor to continue visiting them indoors during an outbreak.

What happens if I can’t see my family or friend in the care home?

If you disagree with a care home's decision not to offer visiting or another decision, you should speak to the care home manager and discuss the home’s visiting policy and risk-assessment materials.

You can also contact the Care Quality Commission. They are responsible for inspecting the safety and quality of care provided in care homes.

Get in touch with your local Healthwatch

Do you want to talk to someone about what these changes mean for care homes near you? Your local Healthwatch can help.

Find your nearest Healthwatch

Can a care home resident come and visit me out of the care home?

Yes, there are no restrictions on visits out of care homes. This also means that residents will no longer have to test following a visit outside the home.

If a resident is assessed as lacking the relevant mental capacity to decide to go out, the individual making decisions on their behalf should follow the ‘best interests checklist as set out under the Mental Capacity Act.

Share your experience #BecauseWeAllCare

We all appreciate the hard work of health and care staff during the pandemic. Healthcare services are now working to bounce back from COVID-19 - but they need our help. 

Share your experience in our short online survey and encourage others to do the same on social media with the hashtag #BecauseWeAllCare

Share your experience