A leading care campaign group has called for care home relatives to be given key worker status.
The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) issued the call following this month’s launch of its #EndIsolationInCare campaign.
Chair, Judy Downey, (pictured) said: “We are delighted that our call for free PPE in July has been answered in the Winter Plan guidance and hope that the distribution mechanism will be effective to ensure that workers in care homes and in the community will finally be fully protected. Now we call for essential visitors to care homes to be given the same status as key workers to ensure safety remains at the highest levels inside homes.”
While welcoming the Winter Plan’s recognition that it is “important to allow care home residents to safely meet their loved ones, especially for those at the end of life” and its encouragement to “providers to find innovative ways of allowing safe contact between residents and their family members”, Judy pointed out this is contradicted by then informing providers that this should be limited “to a single constant visitor, with an absolute maximum of two per resident”.
“The R&RA Helpline continues to hear residents’ ongoing heart-breaking experiences of separation from partners or children as the direct result of banned or restricted visits,” Judy added.
“Of course, safety is important but residents also need the love and support they rely on for a decent quality of life and the relationships which make their lives worth living. We need the Government to better support homes to ensure that decisions are made on a humane and individual basis as required by law, so that visits can go ahead as safely as possible.”
Judy said the requirement for all visitors to be supervised at all times was “demeaning and unacceptable” and breached the Mental Capacity, the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act, as well as other legislation.
“Regardless of age or disability, people must have a right to the dignity of being with family and friends in private. It seems an extraordinary measure and speaks volumes about how families and residents are viewed. We fervently hope that the Government will realise this and amend their guidance accordingly.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We know limiting visits in care homes has been very difficult for many families and residents who want to see their loved ones. Our first priority is to prevent infections in care homes and Local Directors of Public Health are responsible for the policy on care home visits in their areas and should give a regular professional assessment of whether visiting is likely to be appropriate within the local authority, taking into account the wider risks.
“The Adult Social Care Winter Plan sets out tightened infection prevention and control measures to enable visits to continue safely where possible. We expect any area listed as an ‘area of intervention’ to immediately restrict visiting to exceptional circumstances only.
“Our testing support for care homes continues and any resident or member of staff with symptoms can immediately access a free test. We are exploring ways to increase the amount of testing, making full use of available lab capacity.”