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

Take a look at what the guidance around visiting your loved ones in care homes means in practice.
Two older ladies smiling and chatting

Last updated 31 January 2022

As of Monday 31 January 2022, the Government no longer recommends any direct visiting restrictions in care homes, unless the home has an outbreak.

Key recommendations for care homes

  • There should be no limit on the number of visitors allowed into care homes. 
  • Every care home resident should be able to nominate an essential care giver who can visit during an outbreak or period of isolation.
  • Residents who test positive only have to self-isolate for ten days. This isolation can end after 5 full days if they test negative on both day 5 and day 6 and do not have a temperature.
  • Following a COVID-19 outbreak at a care home, visits should be restricted while homes follow outbreak management rules for 14 days. An outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed or suspected cases among people in the same setting with onset of symptoms within 14 days.
  • Unless visits are classed as ‘high risk’, residents leaving the home for visits should not be asked to test or isolate when they return.

Go to full guidance

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

Find out more

See also the guidance for supported living settings.

Can I visit someone in a care home?

Unless the care home has an outbreak of COVID-19, the guidance recommends that care home providers should allow indoor visits to happen wherever possible.

Indoor visits to a resident at the end of their life should continue in all cases, without limiting the number of visitors. This includes in the event of an outbreak.

Every care home resident can also nominate an essential care giver. Essential care givers are family members or friends who can visit indoors more often, including during outbreaks or periods of self-isolation. 

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

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

If you visit a care home resident, you must take a rapid lateral flow test and test negative before every visit.

The care home should provide full details on their testing process and obtain consent from visitors before they take part in testing. The guidance recommends that testing takes place on-site at the care home. However, visitors may also be able to self-test at home using test kits provided by the care home, the Government, or another lateral flow test site.

If visitors test positive, they will not be allowed into the home for a visit. They must instead follow government guidance on self-isolation

Essential care givers will have access to the same testing and PPE as care home staff. If there is an outbreak in the home, essential care givers may be asked to take additional tests. However, visits cannot occur if the essential care giver or resident is COVID-19 positive unless this is for an end of life visit.

Can I visit a care home if a close contact tests positive for COVID-19? 

Visitors who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive and are not legally required to self-isolate are advised against visiting the care home for ten days, unless absolutely necessary, even if they have been fully vaccinated.

Where visits do occur, visitors should have received a negative lateral flow test result earlier in the day of their visit.

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

Vaccination is one of our best defences to combat infection. It significantly reduces the transmission of infection, particularly after two or more doses. The Government strongly recommends that residents and visitors receive two doses of the vaccine, plus their booster, before conducting visits.

If eligible, visitors are also advised to get their flu jab when it is offered to them.

It is advised to care homes 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.

It is recommended that physical contact be allowed between visitors and residents, as long as measures are taken to reduce the risk of infection through the rest of the visit. This includes hand washing and using any PPE the home provides.

How often can I visit a care home?

There is no nationally-set limit on how often visitors can visit the care home for indoor visits. However, visitors should make arrangements with the care home for a visit in advance, so that the care home can manage the number of people attending the home at any one time. This will help them to ensure visiting is safe, based on the layout of the home. 

The care home should set out any precautions or limits in their visiting policy.

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

The care home’s visiting policy should be made available and communicated to residents, and their loved ones, including essential care givers.

Visitors can tell the care home their preferred communication method, so they can receive updates on visiting arrangements in the most appropriate format.

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

In the event of outbreaks, it is recommended that indoor visiting be restricted, with only ‘end of life’ visits or visits from essential care givers recommended.

Visiting restrictions will continue for 14 days.

In the event of an outbreak, other visiting and communication arrangements should be provided between residents and their loved ones. This could include:

  • Visits in well-ventilated spaces with substantial screens, visiting pods or from behind windows
  • Telephone calls
  • Video calls
  • Newsletters
  • Emails, letters, cards or photographs.

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.

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

Yes, visits out of care homes can be allowed for residents of all ages. This could be for a short walk, to attend a place of worship or for a longer visit including an overnight stay to see family or friends.

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.

The only instances where the guidance recommends that residents self-isolate following a visit out of the care home, is following an emergency stay in hospital or another visit deemed after a risk assessment to be ‘high risk’. This is regardless of the resident’s vaccination status. Even in these cases of isolation, it is recommended that the resident may continue to leave the home for visits if:

  • A risk assessment by the care provider shows they can avoid other residents
  • They are not visiting another social care setting
  • Consideration is given to the vulnerability of those they will be visiting

All residents who are able to take lateral flow tests should also be able to end their isolation periods early:

  • Vaccinated (with their primary dose and any eligible booster dose) if they take a negative lateral flow test on day 4, 5 and 6 following their return to the care home (day 0)
  • Unvaccinated if they take a negative lateral flow test on day 6, 7 and 8

If a visit out is impossible without self-isolation on return because of COVID-19 risks, care homes should communicate the reasons for this decision to the resident and their loved ones.

In the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home will likely reduce opportunities for outward visiting (except in exceptional circumstances).

Read the guidance for visits out of care homes

The government have now published guidance for visits out of care homes. To find out more, please visit the website.