The DHSC MCA/DoLS pandemic guidance has been updated (27 April) to reflect the easing of restrictions in England and Wales. In particular, the guidance has been updated in relation to the discharge of functions by people under DoLS as follows (with a similar approach to IMCAs and RPRs in the additional guidance):
To carry out DoLS assessments and reviews, remote techniques should be considered, such as telephone or video calls where appropriate to do so, and the person’s communication needs should be taken into consideration. Views should also be sought from those who are concerned for the person’s welfare.
Face-to-face visits by professionals, for example for DoLS assessments, are an important part of the DoLS legal framework. These visits can occur if needed, for example to meet the person’s specific communication needs, in urgent cases or if there are concerns about the person’s human rights.
The government has published the COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England, explaining how restrictions will be eased over time. Guidance on what you can and cannot do has been published reflecting the roadmap, which will also be updated as restrictions are eased.
During and after the national restrictions in England, visits by professionals can occur when needed and should be supported wherever it is possible to do so safely. DoLS professionals should work closely with hospitals and care homes to decide if visiting in person is appropriate, and how to do this safely. Guidance on testing for professionals visiting care homes has been produced and should be used to support visiting to care homes, with professionals tested on the door of the first care home they visit on that day. However, testing is only one part of the approach to reduce risk. It is critical that visiting professionals put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriately and follow the relevant infection control measures when visiting a care home, including hand hygiene and distancing, in order to help keep care home residents and staff safe.
Decisions around visiting are operational decisions and ultimately for the providers and managers of individual care homes and hospitals to make. If an individual has not been tested (or is unable to provide proof) and it is not possible to test prior to entry, the care home should make a risk-based decision regarding whether to permit entry, taking into account the reason and urgency of the visit. Visiting professionals should understand and respect their local visiting policies, including for individual hospitals and care homes. The government’s policy for family and friends visits to care homes has also recently been updated and contains practical advice about how to facilitate safe visits, which will also be useful for DoLS professionals.
Similarly, professionals in Wales are required to comply with any additional setting guidance or location specific guidance for Wales when considering professional DoLS visits.