The Care Quality Commission has warned that it may inspect any care home that imposes “unacceptable” blanket bans on visiting.
The warning signals a hardening of the CQC’s position on care homes imposing blanket visiting bans where there is no active coronavirus outbreak and follows a call from MPs to end this practice.
Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC, told Care Home Professional: “Blanket bans, where there is no active outbreak, are unacceptable and people should follow government guidelines, give sufficient weight to local risks and advice from their Director of Public Health as well as giving consideration to the home environment. The individual must be at the centre of the decision. All decisions need to stay under review as circumstances change. Where CQC are aware of blanket visiting bans in homes with no outbreaks, this may trigger an inspection.
“We recognise that many people will have had a terrible time, being unable to visit and spend important time with their loved ones for many months, and how this has had a significant impact on mental health and well-being of people in care services and their families. When thinking about visiting, for those entering care homes and those leaving to visit other places, providers must start with a focus on the individual and how their needs will be met.”
She added: “The majority of providers are continuing to do extraordinary work, even when faced with workforce shortages, increased testing and the roll out of a national vaccination program. However, we are aware that in some places blanket decisions are continuing to be made against government guidance. Where decisions are being made, whether that is for visiting, testing or vaccination, the focus must always be on the individual needs of the person.
“Person centred care has never been more important and recognising that part of people’s identity and wellbeing comes from their relationships is critical. Meeting people’s holistic needs means an individualised approach. The distress caused by not having important relationships well maintained can be as devastating to mental health as when physical health is not attended to – both need to be a priority.”
In a letter sent to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Human Rights highlighted the impact of a long lockdown on those in care homes, hospitals and prisons.
The letter states: “As we set out in our report last year, blanket visiting bans are contrary to the rights of both patients and their families under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act 1983, and NHS England guidance.
“Failure to adopt an individualised approach to the safety of visits risks breaching the right of patients, residents and their families to family life (Article 8 ECHR).”
The letter follows the committee’s hearing of evidence from care home relatives who expressed the severe emotional toll that separation had caused them and their loved ones.
Alexis Quinn, who represents Rightful Lives and is an autistic woman who has experience of being in mental health detention, said: “It can literally be the difference between having the will to live and wanting to give up. It can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak.”