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BASW England response to revised Covid-19 testing guidance for Professional Visitors and care home providers in England

The guidance will take effect from 22 March 2021

BASW England welcomes the revised guidance for testing professionals visiting care homes in England. Whilst the guidance does not make specific reference to social workers, the term “professional visitor” is applicable. The guidance will take effect from 22 March 2021. 

Through our Test Access Rights campaign, we know that access to regular testing for social workers has been variable across the country and that in many places visits to care homes are not currently being encouraged or supported.

This guidance provides clarity for care home providers and professional visitors about what is required to promote safe access: 

  • Care homes should see evidence from the professional of a negative rapid lateral flow test within the last 72hrs, which shows they are following the NHS staff testing regime. 
  • Professionals who are not part of regular testing will need to be tested at the care home in the same way as visitors. 
  • If they are visiting multiple care homes in one day, they will now only need to be tested at the first care home they visit that day and can use evidence of this test at the next care home they visit that day.
  • Visiting professionals are exempt from testing for 90 days following a positive PCR test, unless they develop new symptoms. 

Professionals should not be allowed to enter a care home without a negative Lateral Flow Test result, except for the following scenarios:

  • An emergency 
  • Overridden by the care home manager following a risk-based decision.
  • Their entry is required by law, such as CQC inspectors.

The changes proposed here will enable social workers to carry out safe professional visits to people in care homes and does not apply to supported living or extra care housing. 

Social workers in a range of roles continue to voice that there are issues gaining access to people in care homes even when regular lateral flow testing is in place. This has been the situation for the past 12 months with social workers having to rely heavily on third party often limited information to make professional judgements affecting people’s lives. 

Maris Stratulis, National Director at BASW England, said: "It is imperative that all social workers are made aware of this latest guidance and we want to hear from members experiencing issues with access to regular testing and/or visits to care homes.

"BASW England is committed to promoting human rights and ensuring citizens in residential and supported living or extra care housing have access to loved ones and professional visitors.

"We commend collaboration and working in partnership with providers, families, friends, carers and other professionals and will continue to advocate for parity of guidance for professional visitors accessing supported living or extra care housing.

"Please continue to support our campaign to ensure social workers can respond to the human rights challenges of Covid 19, safeguard and promote the wellbeing of people and families."