Care homes and hospitals may soon be forced to stop refusing visitors over Covid concerns

By | November 12, 2022

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Care homes and hospitals may soon be forced to stop refusing visitors in facilities due to Covid concerns if plans being drawn up by the government are passed.

Policies put in place at the height of the Covid pandemic restricted movement into and out of many facilities for the safety of residents.

But Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whately has now slammed the policies for lacking basic humanity, revealing she was personally impacted by rules which prevented her from visiting her critically ill mother.

She now wants to develop new laws which will give residents and patients more rights to choose whether they receive visitors. 

While official visiting restrictions were suspended earlier this year in England, government figures revealed hundreds of care homes still have procedures in place which make it difficult, or impossible in some cases, for people to see their loved ones.

Ms Whately told The Times: ‘The darkest days of the pandemic are thankfully behind us but I’m still hearing from families [who are] being stopped from visiting loved ones.

Policies put in place at the height of the Covid pandemic restricted movement into and out of many facilities for the safety of residents

‘I know how it feels. I didn’t know if I would see my mum alive again when she was very ill in hospital in the summer. 

‘I remember well the feelings I had at the time — grief mixed with frustration and even anger at a system that seemed to lack humanity.’

She said after the travesties of the pandemic, there could be no doubt in the public’s minds how important visits are.

Guidance set by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) states that visits to loved ones should be unrestricted and even residents with Covid ‘should be able to have one visitor at a time’.

At the height of the pandemic, elderly residents reported being unable to see relatives for months and some people with dementia were kept in their rooms for 24 hours a day. 

There are a few different avenues Ms Whately could take in order to safeguard visiting rights for care home residents.

The first would be to introduce secondary legislation demanding the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, to inspect the policies at each care home or hospital.

Another option could be moving to introduce primary legislation, but this could take more time to pass through parliament. 

At the height of the pandemic, elderly residents reported being unable to see relatives for months and some people with dementia were kept in their rooms for 24 hours a day

At the height of the pandemic, elderly residents reported being unable to see relatives for months and some people with dementia were kept in their rooms for 24 hours a day

At the height of the pandemic, elderly residents reported being unable to see relatives for months and some people with dementia were kept in their rooms for 24 hours a day

The Rights for Residents and the Relatives & Residents Association said in a statement on November 7: ‘During the lockdowns for Covid-19 and beyond, it became all too apparent that people living in care homes simply weren’t having their rights respected.

‘People can’t just be wrapped up in cotton wool. It’s not possible, desirable – or lawful.’

Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whately has now slammed the policies for lacking basic humanity

Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whately has now slammed the policies for lacking basic humanity

Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whately has now slammed the policies for lacking basic humanity

The organisation has started a campaign to end isolation in care homes, calling for more proportionate responses to outbreaks, focusing particularly on the rights of residents and patients. 

MPs debated the matter in Parliament on October 27, with several politicians sharing their own distressing stories of being prevented from visiting loved ones at the height of the pandemic.

Dan Carden said ‘the trauma’ of his father’s death will remain with his mother after she watched his isolation while he was being treated for cancer.

‘People across the United Kingdom are still having to face their time in hospitals, care homes and other care settings completely alone and detached from the people they hold dearest,’ he said.

‘They are some of the most vulnerable and frail people in our society; some of them will be nearing the end of their lives.’

Liz Saville Roberts described being able to touch her mother’s hand on one occasion in the six weeks after she had a stroke.

Esther McVey MP said: ‘It is deeply shameful and a stain on our history that our country has allowed this to happen, and that it is still happening so long after covid restrictions have been lifted.’ 

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