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It’s time that residents in care homes got back to their normal lifestyle

It is some time now since the end of lockdowns, and for most of us we have been able to get back to our normal lives. This is not the case for many residents in care homes however, where campaigners feel that residents remain neglected, abandoned and betrayed 2 years into the pandemic.

Concerns remain about visiting

Many residents are still being confined to their bedrooms because care homes continue to impose draconian visiting rules which lawyers say breach their human rights. This is despite the official lifting of formal visits in July. However, many care homes have continued to restrict visits to pre-booked supervised 30-minute slots, while rules also state they should lock down for 2 weeks in the event of any COVID-19 cases.

Diane Mayhew from the campaign group Rights for Residents said ‘essential care givers’ must be given a legal right to visit their loved ones in all circumstances, she said the rest of society is back to normal, but people in care homes remain an afterthought a group that have been betrayed throughout the pandemic.

Unbelievable requirement to visit relatives

Ruth Womack before she was able to visit her mother’s bedroom in a care home in Sheffield was required to complete a criminal record check and five training courses including, fire safety and health and safety.

Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights is concerned about care home residents

The committee is critical of the Government, claiming that much of the problem has been with the guidance provided by Government, there have also been concerns at the decisions taken by individual care homes and care providers. In light of this, the Committee was astonished that the Care Quality Commission was unable to offer a clear picture of adherence to the guidance within the care home sector. The CQC, was urged to ‘get a grip’ and implement robust processes on data collection and monitoring of visits to care homes.

Questions of deprivation of liberty under Article 5 European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as well as unjustified interference with the right to family life (Article 8 ECHR) remain a consideration.

Since the start of the pandemic, official guidance on care home visiting has prioritised the Government’s obligation to protect residents’ right to life (Article 2 ECHR), even where this has severely impacted on the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 ECHR).

While this may have been understandable in the short term, it is unacceptable to place draconian restrictions on the right to family life of those in residential care and their families for over a year. Of course, the Government should seek to protect residents in care homes, but it also has an obligation to uphold their right to family life and ensure that it is facilitated in practice.

Responsibilities of care home providers and the CQC

There is no doubt that many care home providers will see the protection of residents from COVID-19 as their essential priority. But this needs to be set alongside the rights of residents and their families rights to make visits. According to the Department of Health and Social Care guidance on visiting care homes August 2021, visiting must be supported and enabled wherever and whenever it is possible and safe to do so.

Providing the staff of care homes are following the guidance on visiting laid down DHSC there should not be any problem. However, it would seem that some providers may not be following the guidance and laying themselves open to criticism.

It is the responsibility of the Care Quality Commission to ensure that care homes are complying with the requirements of the guidance on visiting and the rights of residents and their families is protected.

Summary

The furore about care home visiting is justifiably understandable. Residents have rights to receive visitors and denying them will impact on the health and wellbeing and their quality of life. Some families are having to jump through hoops before they are allowed to visit their loved ones. The Parliamentary committee on human rights is concerned that the denial of care home visiting to families is in contradiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

Care home providers should have no problems on visiting if they follow the guidance which states; visiting should be supported and enabled wherever it is possible to do so safely – supported by this guidance and within an environment that is set up to manage risks. All visitors also have an important role to play – helping to keep their loved ones, safe.

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

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