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Bans on care home visits breach human rights, say MPs



MPs have called on the Government to make the blanket ban on care home visits during Covid-19 illegal in England.

They have said banning care home visits without considering individual circumstances is a breach of the human right to family life for patients, residents and families.

In a letter sent on Wednesday to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, chair of the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights Harriet Harman wrote: ‘We hear far too many examples of people being denied meaningful visits, where these might be safely facilitated.’

It called for ‘urgent’ legislation that would require individual risk assessments to facilitate face-to-face visits or, if they are not possible, alternatives to meet the residents’ needs.

Helen Wildbore, director of the relatives and rights association, told the committee that visiting restrictions are ‘having a profound impact on people’s well-being’, especially those with dementia.

She continued: ‘It is causing distress and increased confusion. People think that they have been abandoned by their families. Too many people are passing away without the support and love of their families.’

The letter also raised concerns over the high death rates from Covid-19 among people with a learning disability, which it said was an issue that must be investigated further. Nursing in Practice highlighted this week that umbrella-groups are calling for people with learning disabilities to be a priority for the Covid vaccines.

The committee has asked for a response by 17 February.

On Monday, care minister Helen Whateley said the Government was trying to get care home visits in place but cautioned it takes time to ‘build up immunity’ following a Covid-19 vaccination. All older care home residents were offered the first dose in England as of Monday.

Face-to-face visits were banned during the first national lockdown in March, forcing residents and their loved ones to talk through windows or outside.

In November, the Department for Health and Social Care issued guidance that said screens or visitor pods could be used. But indoor visits were once again banned in England this January when the country entered the third national lockdown because of Covid-19.