Want to visit grandma? Here’s 45 pages of documents to read first

The Department of Health has been criticised for asking the public to wade through 45 pages of documentation about changes to visiting rules.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 6th May 2021, 12:06 pm
A diagram in one of the documents issued by the department, entitled: ‘Appendix 1a: Review Cycle for Moving towards Normalised Visiting in Care Homes in NI Pathway’

DUP MLA and health committee member Jonathan Buckley told the News Letter it is part of a well-established pattern of the health authorities issuing confusing “guidance” about life under Covid-19.

The News Letter reported throughout last year on the ballooning array of Covid laws, legal amendments, and official advice hosted on the Department of Health’s webpage, which the public were expected to comb through if they wanted to find out precisely what was allowable, what wasn’t, and what the penalties were.

And earlier this spring the PPS said the rules were so complicated that prosecuting people for breaking them was basically impossible.

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A diagram in one of the documents issued by the department, entitled: ‘Appendix 1a: Review Cycle for Moving towards Normalised Visiting in Care Homes in NI Pathway’

The new changes to visiting rules for care homes take effect from today.

The web page where the department announced these changes gives almost no details of what they involve.

Instead, readers are re-directed to two separate files:

> “Visiting with Care: A Pathway” (running to 25 pages)

> And “A Pathway to Enhanced Visiting” (20 pages)

Both files begin by stating: “This document replaces, in its entirety, the Care Homes elements of the Department of Heath’s visiting guidance COVID-19: Regional Principles for Visiting in Care Settings in Northern Ireland, which was originally published in June 2020 with the most recent version taking effect from 1st March 2021.”

“This goes to the very heart of what I’ve been saying for weeks,” said Mr Buckley.

“The messaging and communication from the Department of Health in relation to these issues is far too complex.

“It’s in riddles, tied up in large documents. They need to spell it out very clearly.

“I’ve been shouting quite loud at the committee that we need a really consistently clear articulation in relation to these issues.”

He said many people who have loved-ones in care homes have not got the time – or perhaps even the ability – to read through 45 pages of documentation.

“You think that after a year-long of this nonsense, the department would realise they need to have clear, consistent guidance...

“Sadly these latest documents show they just haven’t learned the lesson.”

Perhaps the main changes kicking in tomorrow which the News Letter has gleanedis that the number of visits allowed per week will be upped from one to two (possibly going up to three in a fortnight later) – with the new guidance stating that such visits should be “accessible over a seven-day period as well as after 5pm”.

These visits will be capped at two people at one time (including children), for one hour.

Handwashing will replace the use of gloves to enable handholding, but aprons and masks will remain.

In addition to the two visits allowed above, church ministers and faith groups may book a visit. All visitors are to be screened for Covid-19.

This will be followed by another set of relaxations four weeks later.

Read more from this reporter at the links below:

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