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MPs Committee calls for an end to blanket bans on care home visits

House of Commons

MPs have called on the government and CQC to protect the human rights of residents and patients in care settings and end the needless blocking of family visits.

In two letters published last week the Joint Committee on Human Rights called on the government to review its guidelines to ensure that meaningful visits are facilitated by care providers, subject to individualised risk assessments. It further calls on the Care Quality Commission to ensure action is taken when providers fail to support visits and for better mechanisms to be put in place for residents, patients and relatives to raise concerns themselves.

The Joint Committee’s report into care homes and visiting restrictions, published in May 2021, found that blanket bans on care home visits were a contravention of the human rights of residents, particularly the right to family life. It called on the government to put into law protections for care home residents deprived of family visits. In the correspondence published this week, the Joint Committee urges the government to revisit the draft legislation it put forward.

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Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, said: “The Joint Committee on Human Rights has received heart-rending evidence from relatives and patients that indiscriminate restrictions on visiting in care homes remain in place and families are still being prevented from visiting their loved ones.

“Family visits are not optional, they are absolutely essential for the quality of life of people in care homes. Whilst care home staff continue to do an incredible job keeping residents safe during the pandemic, for too many families and their loved ones these restrictions are a deeply painful breach of their right to family life.”

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said: “Older people in care are facing a devastating, prolonged attack on their human rights. Failings in the early stages of the pandemic put lives at risk. The government has swung dramatically to the other extreme and people in care face discrimination as the only group still subject to severe restrictions on movement and contact.

“Whilst the pandemic has created new, unprecedented challenges, it has also exacerbated pre-existing problems in a sector consistently neglected, not least staff shortages. A ‘perfect storm’ is brewing, putting older people’s safety, dignity and other rights at risk.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are doing everything we can to support care providers in facilitating visits between residents and their friends and family safely.

“In July, the limit to the number of named visitors was removed, as were daily limits to the number of visitors each resident can have at any one time. Every care home resident can choose to nominate an essential care giver who may visit the home in most circumstances (including during periods of self-isolation and outbreak) to offer companionship or help with personal care needs.

“All care home residents should be supported to get the care and companionship they need from visitors, as it this is essential to their health and wellbeing.”

 

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