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New HSE recommendations, which come into effect on 10:01:2022, that advise visitors to consider self-testing for Covid-19 before entering a nursing home may result in further uncertainty and inconsistency around visiting arrangements at some nursing homes, Sage Advocacy has warned.

The national organisation, which provides advocacy and support services to older people, vulnerable adults and healthcare patients, said further clarification around the new self-testing for Covid-19 regime would be welcome for residents and their families.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has outlined in its latest guidance, which will come into effect on 10:01:2022 that “regular visitors should be advised to consider self-testing for COVID-19 twice weekly even when they have no symptoms”.

It also states that “occasional visitors should be advised to consider self- testing for COVID-19 before their visit even if they have no symptoms.”

However, Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said the national organisation had been contacted by families of nursing home residents who have reported that some nursing homes have informed them that they will require visitors to self-test for Covid-19 each time they enter a nursing home.

Ms Lennon said: “Sage Advocacy is very aware that some nursing home providers have previously not adhered to HPSC guidance and introduced their own restrictions on visiting.

“We know for example that currently some nursing home providers have informed residents and families that their nursing home is “closed” to visitors because “community transmission of Covid-19 is extremely high”.

“This action completely contravenes HPSC guidance which stresses that residents in nursing homes and other residential care facilities have a right to maintain meaningful relationships with people who are important to them.

“The rights of residents must be respected and protected, and Sage Advocacy is alarmed that some nursing home providers may be denying residents the right to visitors.

The national organisation said it is concerned about how the new HPSC guidance to visitors to consider self-testing for Covid-19 will be applied by nursing home providers.

Ms Lennon said: “We would urge nursing home providers to adhere to all HPSC guidance at all times and we have been closely monitoring how this is operating on a national scale.

“Through our advocacy work we know that Christmas was a particularly difficult time this year because some nursing home providers introduced restrictions which dictated terms and conditions for nursing home residents if they chose to leave their nursing home to spend time with their families.

“In some instances, residents were advised not to leave or told they would have to then isolate for five days in their room if they did temporarily leave a nursing home – this is a clear breach of HPSC guidance and also of a resident’s right to leave a nursing home.

“Sage Advocacy is concerned about how some nursing home providers will interpret the latest HPSC guidance to visitors to nursing homes on considering self-testing for Covid-19 before a visit.

“We want to ensure that the rights of residents will be protected and respected in relation to visiting.

“It is also important to remember that there will be costs incurred in purchasing antigen tests for self-testing which could be an issue for some visitors, particularly those who have to manage on low incomes and state pensions.”

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