New guidance may add to ’inconsistency’ of nursing home visit rules, group warns

Latest HPSC guidance encourages nursing home visitors to self-test for Covid-19

New guidelines encouraging nursing home visitors to regularly self-test for Covid-19 may result in further “uncertainty and inconsistency” of visitation rules in different facilities, a representative organisation has warned.

In its latest guidance, which comes into effect on Monday, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said “regular visitors should be advised to consider self-testing for Covid-19 twice weekly even when they have no symptoms”.

“Occasional visitors should be advised to consider self-testing for Covid-19 before their visit even if they have no symptoms,” it adds.

The guidance is in a bid to reduce the risk of spreading the virus from the community to vulnerable or at-risk residents of long-term care facilities, given the prevalence of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.


However, Sage Advocacy said it has already been contacted by families who say some nursing homes have informed them that they will require visitors to self-test for Covid-19 each time they enter the facility.

Sarah Lennon, executive director of the national organisation which advocates for older and vulnerable people, said they are "very aware" that some 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’,” she said.

“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.”

Ms Lennon said the rights of residents “must be respected and protected”, adding that the organisation is “alarmed that some nursing home providers may be denying residents the right to visitors”.

She added that the cost of antigen tests could also be a prohibitive factor for some visitors, if they are required to test every time they visit a facility.

“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.”

The 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.

It has called on the facilities to abide by the new rules, adding that further clarification from health officials on the self-testing for Covid-19 regime would be welcome.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times