CORONAVIRUS: Care home visitor restrictions called into question   


Care home providers have come under criticism for blanket restrictions placed on visits by families and friends in a bid to protect residents from the coronavirus.

Operators up and down the country have announced restrictions on visits to residents after the number of people infected with the virus rose sharply last week.

Reacting to the moves, Judy Downey, the chair of the Relatives and Residents Association, told The Guardian: “We have tin-pot dictators telling people that they can’t visit their parents and partners based on something they have half-heard.

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“Residents can get very distressed if their relatives stop visiting.  If you had the choice, at the end of your life, between not seeing your children or dying more quickly, which would you choose? I’d choose the latter.

“Just as importantly: it’s not legal to ban visits from friends and family. Residents have a right to family and private life, the right to choose and the right to be visited.”

Bupa and luxury care home operator Dormy Care Communities are among the latest to announce visitor restrictions. Bupa said it was continuing to welcome visitors provided they were not exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

Dormy Care said that only “essential visits” were being permitted and that loved ones should be met within their own room and not in communal spaces.

In its latest guidance to care home operators, which was published on Friday, the government advised that no-one should be allowed to visit “who has suspected COVID-19 or is generally unwell”, adding hand hygiene should be emphasised.

The government said care home providers “should also consider the wellbeing of residents, and the positive impact of seeing friends and family”.

Nadra Ahmed OBE, chair of the National Care Association, said: “Providers are taking these steps to protect the residents and staff. They are taking steps to increase communication options via telephones etc. The advice remains for relatives who do visit to ensure that they are free of the virus and to comply with precautionary processes.

“Care providers are working hard to mitigate the risks to the vulnerable people they care for and their workforce, but know that they cannot completely eradicate the risk as there will be circumstances under which families and friends will be enabled to visit.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, added: “Some care providers have introduced this as a precaution but we need very clear guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England as to what the position is. We have been asking for this repeatedly.”



Tags : Best practiceCoronavirusHealth and Safety

The author Lee Peart


  1. We have put our home in lockdown to protect the people we support, we are fully aware that we can only do so much to protect our residents and keep the safe, As staff will still be coming and going we have added many protective measures to do the best we keep our people safe.
    I am appauled that Judy Downey has called us “Tin Pot Dictators” with “half baked” knowledge. Does she not think that we are recieving information on best practice from every department. Does she think we are not listening to W.H.O. advice and taking it seriously.
    Added to these insults she has written ““Residents can get very distressed if their relatives stop visiting. If you had the choice, at the end of your life, between not seeing your children or dying more quickly, which would you choose? I’d choose the latter.”. Does she not believe that we probally all agree with that sentiment, but whilst ‘That’ person is making that decision and choosing to have family in, how do we protect the other individuals who havent made that decision.
    We are not idiots, you trust us to look after your families, why do you not trust us to find the knowledge and act on the knowledge we need to keep them safe.

  2. Grossly unfair & irresponsible comments from Judy Downey, Providers have a duty of care towards their residents as well as their staff. The world is facing a crisis that is having a life & death impact on the elderly and vulnerable. Whilst Judy may advocate the potential spread of a virus, our visitors are appreciative of the decision we took to suspend all but non essential visiting.

    1. RAJ SEHGAL. What nonsense to say that ‘Judy may advocate the potential spread of a virus. She is making the essential point that to some residents banning visits from their loved ones can it’s self have a life or death impact on the care home resident..

      I hope that you are taking into consideration the human rights of your residents and ensuring that the necessary safeguardings are in place.

  3. Judy Downey is clearly both naive and misinformed. Her language is child like and frankly dangerous – not to mention offensive to all responsible operators. If this is your approach you should consider your position as Chair of Residents and Relatives Assoc.

  4. Feels much like the selfish anti vaxer view. Visit granny and infect other residents and staff, or use Skype etc for a few months and visit later when your relative and others are still alive. Otherwise I suggest Judy take her relative out of the home and care for them herself and then she might appreciate the valuable job that staff do and the need to think of the community and not just a single situation

    Oh dear. Unfortunately for me, Care Home Professional lifted part of a discussion with a Guardian journalist and implied that my main focus had been to criticise care providers. I was, in fact, referring to statements made last week by some politicians and nurses, who made unhelpfully sweeping statements about all visits to older people being subject to blanket bans. This was before this week’s advice and the escalation involved.
    In particular, I was perturbed by the precipitate actions of some regional and community care nurses who were preventing relatives from visiting their dying parents in their own homes. The Guardian article was accompanied by a description of excellent and thoughtful care home practice, which illustrated and reflected our discussion well. I was stressing the need for there to be nuanced and, sometimes, complex decisions in this frightening new climate, which we know are happening in many excellent settings. As you know, these need to be based on careful risk assessments and the best interests of vulnerable people in the round. They must also involve human rights considerations as well as the physical and emotional wellbeing of all involved. It is also true that some care homes, despite CQC advice “to consider the wellbeing of residents, and the positive impact of seeing friends and family”, have failed to explain or discuss their policies with families and left many residents with fluctuating dementia and others feeling confused and bereft. The R&RA has asked CQC to clarify its guidance so that we can work together with care providers for the best outcome for everyone without confusion or blame.

    1. Well done Trudy Downey I think you are spot on. My loved one would go downhill very quickly indeed without the emotional support of her closest relative and representative. Thank you so much for speaking up for the likes of my mother. I would say to some of your critics here do you not think that relatives are going to act in the best interest of their loved ones and act with utmost responsibility and take all precautions while visiting, they after all have much more at stake than the care homes businesses and managers..


  6. Wow Judy Downey – just wow! I recommend knowing before commenting. What’s better? You and every other visitor stops coming to a care home for a while to protect their loved ones from a contagion OR every man and his dog continue to come to the home and put everyone at a higher risk of contracting said contagion? Do I need to spell it out for you, this disease kills older persons and is proving to be particularly harmful to over 70’s and those with other underlying health issues. You decide Judy – you seem to be an expert.

  7. I am very worried that care homes,a lot of whom receive poor inspection reports will be operating behind closed doors.A huge problem with them is a lack of staff ,and this problem will increase with staff staying at home.. where problem s occur,it is relatives who inform the Q.C.C.,how will relatives know what is going on. If care homes are so concerned about their residents they should also take into account their mental well-being which can alter their physical health..Also they should just remember that resedents are greatly loved by their relatives and are not selfish,

  8. Oh Lucy what a poor view of care homes you have staff are underpaid and over worked not to mention under appreciated by most do you realise what training care staff have to have ? To do there job not to mention that there are far better paid jobs out there we do not do this for the money we do this because we want to make a difference to someone in there final chapter of life we do not hide behind closed doors and to assume that only visitors can spot or report bad practice is criminal of course we care about the mental welfare of our clients but we also care about there physical welfare to do you not think a decline in physical health would impact mental health will you open the doors of your home to around 100 visitors a day in these dangerous times No I don’t think so so don’t expect our precious and vulnerable clients to do so

    1. Well said! We are grossly underpaid for what we do and what we go through yet we turn up day after 13 hour day to do our job and to look after your relatives, family and friends. I am currently isolating myself at home when not on shift to ensure I stay as fit and healthy as I can and I know other staff doing the same thing so we can continue to do our job and give these residents the best we can. I understand it is hard for people not being allowed to visit but please look at the big picture! Closures and bans have not been done for fun they have been implemented to keep the residents as safe as possible. Less people in and out of the home means less risk.

    2. My mother has just been placed on end of life care in her care home. As a family we have visited nearly every day and assisted in her meal times and she is totally reliable on this to survive.We have been told we cannot visit at this very emotional time and sad time even to the point we cannot look through a window at her. I can supply full ppe equipment at my own cost which will be far superior to what the care home nurses use but my mother has got to die on her own after an 10 year battle against her illness.

    3. I totatally agree with u jojo we are doing our very best in care or nursing homes there are a lot of vulnerable adults in there homes ; end of life patients who we look after day and night ,if we open door to one relative then we may as well let anyone in , not only are these family’s putting there own relative in danger but others to and the staff which is totally unfair as we to have family’s some we are also un able to see , why are you not listening to what the government have said STAY HOME SAVE LIVES please you are making our job harder , and to be fair if police where to stop you and ask where you going and you said to visit relative they would tell you to go home and most prob give you fine , please let us do our jobs and you stay home to stop risk off this spreading more

  9. I am in the situation of being locked out of my fathers care home. He does not understand, we did not have any warning so could not explain to him. His care home have provided no information, no communications. I am left not knowing if I will ever see my father again. This crisis is not a few weeks or months, many are predicting it May be years. My father does not have years.

    Given the shocking lack of communication, failure to answer emails, their telephone system being not fit for purpose, my sister and I have decided to care for our father ourselves. Having said this to the care home we are now in a terrible position where they have said we are not allowed to remove him. He has no section or deprivation of liberty order. On the occasions we have managed to speak to him he is asking us to come and get him. Social services are involved. As I am in the middle of this I won’t divulge which care home it is.

    I am absolutely devastated, reduced to terrible anxiety, this is at a time of crisis. The staff are young, many agency workers, they are coming and going to family and working partners. I am older, retired, have no face to face contacts as per current government advice. I would like care homes to consider who is the risk to the residents.

    We need some balance and compassion and Judy is trying to raise these issues. I hope my message will help you to understand what family are going through. Other care homes may have been more sensitive I can only tell you about what is happening to me and my lonely, frightened elderly, frail father who told me “ I know you are very busy”. Hearing him say I am too busy to visit him cut me to pieces. My anger at this care home is beyond my ability to describe.

  10. What about the elderly who go out to Club environments are they not at risk doing this
    As they are mixing with those people who might have the virus or symptoms .
    Unfortunately they make this choice but should they not consider that they should not put themselves in harms way

  11. We must protect those in Care Homes and the workers who look after them but many patients in nursing homes need the constant support that partners and relatives provide. There simply aren’t enough staff to do that on a 1 to 1 basis.
    Quality of care, dignity and well being will be compromised, it often is even under normal conditions!
    Nominated relatives or partners must be allowed access. Precautions can be put in place.

  12. my father has only been in a care home for 3 days for the manager to send me an email stated i cannot visit anymore because of the virus my father is 92 and end of life with dementia i have been there for my father especially the last 2 years and now only as days or weeks left this has broken my heart and my fathers and probably wonders where we are because his only been in the care home a few days they do not know him and how to treat him, i washed my hands and they took my temperture everytime i went there which was twice a day to feed him The second day he had a severe cut on his elbow and was left untreated i am very worried and scared for my father. I am heartbroken

    1. I have been refused visiting my 89 year old mother in her care home , yet i am a fully trained social care support worker for 35 years,with up to date qualifications including nvq , infection control ,health and safety ,,medication training, etc, etc, ,my mother has dementia ,COPD, and by me not seeing her each day as i have been for many years this i feel will affect her immensely,i am devastated , but i am good enough and permitted to continue to go in the community supporting others , including other care homes and supported living establishments.It. really is a mad world.

  13. My Nan’s care home have said we can’t even wave at her through her window! 2 1/2 weeks on she is getting very upset and confused as to why… The care homes reason; it wouldn’t be fair on the residents upstairs who don’t have a window for relatives to wave through. Any ideas who I should complain too?? She is 101!

  14. James Rycroft, Judy is neither naive or misinformed. Her point is absolutely vital. Perhaps you should educate yourself a bit more before making such ill informed judgments

  15. I am in situation where we were informed by the care home my father is in that rather than have months because of cancer he may only have weeks.I know the home is doing everything they can to help but if we got in to see him he would have to go into isolation for 7 days but yet they are allowing staff to care for him that leave their job and go to the local shop and are coming into contact with god knows who how is that fair to us my father could die before this lockdown is removed so I might not be able to see him again answer me that

  16. I thought I was the only person suffering my son I severely autistic and lives in a care home we have normally 4 days a week contact 2 days he comes to my place and 2 days we visit Patrick at his care home and we only stay in his room
    The care home have said that strictly no visiting from relatives and no home visits I have not ever thought this was the correct decision as my son loves family contact and I can’t explain to him why we have no contact I am heartbroken and my son will be the same but his behavior will go down and I feel the visit outweighs the corona virus risk as we do not mix with anyone at the care home or at my flat

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