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.
“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.”