Banning Visitors to care homes is not the answer

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The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme has learned that a Somerset care home prevented a man from visiting his 93-year-old father, while a home in Essex evicted the children of a Service User after they made a complaint about the way their mother was being cared for. The report on banning visitors is hardly good news following on soon after the recent BBC Panorama programme on scandals in care homes.

I’m too long in the tooth and my experience in social care as a principal inspector has given me sufficient experience to know that there may be more to this than meets the eye.

Having said that, the question needs to be asked, are some care home providers being short sighted in banning visitors, when they know that their actions may come back and bite them. I am aware that there are occasions when care home managers are faced with difficult decisions regarding visitors to their care home. This may include:

  • The Service User does not wish to see the visitor, and the service is required to carry out its duty; that of respecting the persons wishes.
  • The visitor presents a disruptive influence and compromises the quality of life of other service uses.
  • Inappropriate visiting times. I have heard of people wishing to visit a relative after completion of a night shift at 7 o’clock in the morning.

One would accept that there may be difficulties in deciding the best course of action in these situations, but regardless of the difficulty, there needs to be a process in place on how to manage such situations.

Bettal Quality Consultancy have a policy on visitors which covers the process for diffusing and managing these issues. It also provides guidance where Service Users may be at risk because of the behaviour of visitors.

Managers must recognise that regardless of how difficult the situation is that this is the Service Users home and they have a right to receive visitors. The Care Quality Commission have reinforced this message in their publication ‘Information on visiting rights in care homes’ November 2016 in which it states:

‘Care home providers should enable a Service User to see their family and friends if the Service User wants to. Staff should respect Service Users’ relationships and give them as much privacy as possible. If they do not do this, it may mean that the care provider is in breach of a number of regulations in the Health and Social Care Act 2008, against which CQC can take action.’

It therefore cannot be made more clear. Managers must have in place a policy for dealing with disruptive visitors that informs staff how to deescalate and manage situations that are causing concern to Service Users and staff.

Managers must refrain from attempting to bar people from their care home. By following best practice and guidance they will prevent regulatory intervention and the opportunity for the press to inflict further damage on the reputation of care services.

Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute
Managing Director
Bettal Quality Consultancy