MPs call for law to end blanket ban on care home visits

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An MPs committee has called for a new law to end blanket bans on care home visits.

In a letter to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, 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.

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“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.”

The MPs letter says there is an “urgent need for legislation to require that individualised risk assessments are done in relation to each resident or patient, and to ensure that procedures are in place so that such assessments can be queried where they have omitted relevant factors or not made adequate efforts to consider how COVID-safe visits might best be facilitated”.

The call was welcomed by the Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA), who gave evidence during the Committee hearing.

Helen Wildbore, director of the R&RA, said: “The new law would be a clear and strong direction from Parliament that facilitating meaningful contact with family/friends is fundamental to providing good care, during the pandemic and beyond. Individual assessments are not an optional extra, they are essential to protecting residents’ rights. This change would support care providers to meet their duties under the Human Rights Act and help to end the human rights crisis in care. We urge the Government to take forward this new law before it is too late for too many more older people.”

A government spokesperson said: “We know visits to care homes are crucial in supporting the health and wellbeing of residents, which is why we have updated guidance to ensure visits can continue to take place safely during periods of national lockdown.

“The government is looking to ensure that a wider range of visiting arrangements are made available for care home residents when it is safe to do so.”

Tags : Legislation

The author Lee Peart


  1. Guidance is not enough, it should be law. My poor mother has had a terrible year, she doesn’t understand. Needed mental health support in the first lockdown, thought I was dead as I hadn’t been to see her. Diagnosed end of life with bladder cancer in September, so then I was allowed to see her. But this time having deteriorated and bed bound have not been able to see her since New Year.

  2. yes would be great for relatives to see their loved ones in care but as care home owners/managers we have to make sure that both residents and staff are safe and covid is very quick to appear and kill off the frail elderly. Thought has to be given that some relatives will not adhere to PPE and distance etc. small homes do not have facilities to keep people separated or areas where visitors do not have to enter the presmises.

    most small care homes are houses that have been altered to give the adequate resident rooms and facilities. purpose built homes can allow visits safely most of them as they have space.

  3. We have been patient for a year it’s now time to allow us to visit care homes.We are utterly fed up with the governments promises.If the vaccine is as good as they say what is the hold up now that all residents and staff have had the vaccine. In the care home where my husband is and I have had it..We have been blackmailed for months by being made to feel guilty for wanting to visit..our loved ones..It’s not just the residents who are suffering.The mental toll on families should also be taken into account..
    I am getting fed up with Matt Hancock saying we will do our best when it is safe to do so..
    If he is waiting for zero risk we will be waiting forever.
    Why oh why don’t we. Have any rights.
    If a judge can rule on rights for immigrants to be taken out of barracks why can’t the same judge give us rights to visit carehomes?

  4. I am a parent of a profoundly deaf and disabled son in a nursing home. and the last year has been extremely distressing for all concerned. Now that all residents have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine, surely with a COVID test and all ppe etc. it should now be much more posssible for perhaps the closest relative of a resident in a care/nursing home to visit their loved one? Jane

  5. Risk assessment, infection prevention and control, vaccines, rapid flow testing. All of this should make social contact visits both possible and safe. We are a year into this now and visits are essential but still not being managed.. Other countries are leading the way on this, why the lag in the UK? The mental and emotional devastation caused to both patients and their family is unmeasurable, off the scale, next level, and has created more significant harm and risk than covid itself. For over £1000 a week bill in most cases, any argument as to why can’t it be managed in a safe way is weak at best. It’s not as if the income isn’t there. Also why is staff pay so low? They deserve so much more. There is something very broken and unjust about what is happening in care homes and how the doors have been locked to families. It’s a scandal that will go down in history. The isolation isn’t working and for the total official current covid death rate (Feb21) in England, 25% have been care home deaths. The patients aren’t safe, it’s safer outside the care homes. How and why is that? Families have been split up and it’s taken away people’s will to live. Patients feel like prisoners. Families feel powerless, but families are everything. To take that away is so savage. So cruel, and with a £1K a week price tag to boot. Tell me why after a year of this families are still being kept apart?

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