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Care home resident visiting rights must be backed by law, MPs urge

Old woman with mask in care home.


The Government must put into law that care home providers should not implement blanket bans on visiting residents, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned.

It is ‘completely unacceptable’ that some care homes in England are flouting government guidance from April, the cross-party group said in a report published today. Guidelines allow residents two regular visitors and opposes blanket visiting bans, instead favouring individual risk assessments.

The document also raised concerns that some care home providers are imposing ‘draconian restrictions’ on visits – including time restrictions and forcing families to endure ‘prison-like’ visits where they speak to each other through telephones behind plastic screens.

Joint committee chair Harriet Harman MP said ‘care homes have not felt bound’ by the April guidance because it was not ‘underpinned in law’. She added: ‘The Government must now bring forward regulations to give their guidance on visits legal force.’

The report also called for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to ‘get a grip’ after the body reported in April that it was not aware of any care home in England not following the guidance. This is despite clear evidence that ‘a large number of care home providers are still not [doing so]’, it added.

The CQC must ensure more robust process are in place to monitor adherence with Government guidance by the end of May 2021, it said.

In addition, the report welcomed other government guidance, released this week, that allows care home residents to take ‘low-risk’ trips without having to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards. It added: ‘It has taken a great deal of effort by families, including a promise of legal action, to make this happen.’

Before Monday, care home residents who took any trip outside the home had to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to reduce the chance of infecting other residents and staff with Covid-19.

But the Government axed the rule after Labour MPs and the National Care Forum said it turned care home residents into ‘prisoners’ and could deter them from voting in local elections on 6 May.