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All care homes must allow visits from today: Families desperate for contact with relatives

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Care residents will soon be able to have visitors

Care residents will soon be able to have visitors (stock image) (Image: Getty)

Care home chiefs last night faced ending up with the lowest marks from the CQC which says it will carry out on-the-spot inspections if it receives complaints about homes failing to comply. Around 18,000 homes should be welcoming families inside today, many for the first time in a year, as restrictions slowly ease.

Under the new rules, each resident will be able to nominate one family member to regularly visit and hold hands with them, as long as there is no Covid outbreak at the home.

But there is widespread concern that some homes will simply ignore the Government guidance and continue to lock loved ones out.

They possibly fear further outbreaks, as the latest daily figures out last night revealed 82 new deaths and 5,177 more cases of Covid.

But Kate Terroni, the chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, said: “Blanket bans are unacceptable.

“Where we receive information from the public or through whistleblowing about a provider potentially taking a blanket approach to banning visiting, or if we receive information that indicates a closed culture, we may undertake a risk-based inspection.

“A closed culture could include where there are blanket visiting bans when there is no active outbreak; people being discouraged from having regular calls with loved ones or people not being effectively supported to communicate with relatives.

“I call on all care providers to seek a proactive and personalised approach to supporting contact with loved ones where it is safe to do so.”

CQC inspections form part of the national rating system which ranks facilities as outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate.

Department of Health and Social Care guidance says residents with the highest needs can nominate an essential caregiver which, in theory, gives families the right to access.

Hugs

Hugs are available from today (stock image) (Image: Getty)

It also makes clear neither a visitor or resident needs to have had a Covid jab for a reunion to take place.

And a single named visitor will be allowed inside for “meaningful visits”.

However, access remains at the discretion of individual managers, sparking fears providers will continue to disregard the rights of families and residents, some of whom are at the end of their lives.

Guidance clearly states homes cannot impose a blanket visiting policy for all residents and “risk assessments should be completed for all residents in order to establish what type of visits are appropriate for them and whether they should be assigned an essential caregiver in addition to the nominated named visitor”.

It also says home bosses should share assessments with residents and families to explain decisions.

A Daily Express audit found Barchester, Four Seasons Healthcare and Care UK, which together run more than 500 homes with 24,000 residents, are restricting visits to 30 minutes, while Bupa is allowing hour-long visits.

MHA and HC-One did not say how long they’d allow visitors to stay. Sanctuary Care said it would allow visits but “essential caregivers are not allowed until the national vaccination programme progresses”.

Jenny Morrison and Diane Mayhew, of campaign group Rights for Residents, said: “Many care homes are already defying the Government’s instructions, and in the last few days we’ve been
inundated with emails and calls from distraught families.

“Many care home managers are refusing to follow the rules that require them to assess relatives for their suitability as essential family caregivers.

Others display a complete disregard for the wellbeing of their residents by offering a 30-minute socially distanced visit.

“These are clear abuses of the rights of the most vulnerable in our society and the Government must take swift and decisive action to ensure they’re protected in law.”

Visiting restrictions to protect vulnerable residents from Covid have caused heartbreak and anguish to hundreds of thousands of families denied the chance of a final goodbye to loved ones, who have perished of the virus frightened and alone.

It is known that seven in ten care home residents have dementia.

Some 34,000 of these are reported to have died from Covid, while deaths of care home residents are 30 percent higher than previously thought, with the total at 12,000 since January alone.

Fiona Carragher of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “Close contact indoor visits are crucial to the wellbeing of people with dementia.

“Nearly a third of people we surveyed who lost a loved one during the pandemic felt a lack of social contact was a significant factor in their death.

“Visiting must be the default position. We’ll be monitoring to ensure visits happen across the board.”

Is a care home continuing to ban you from seeing a loved one? Email [email protected]

Comment by Helen Whately

Just over a year ago I got the call from the Prime Minister. He gave me the job of delivering our commitments for an extra 50,000 NHS nurses and being minister for social care.

For the past year, we have all grappled with a deadly pandemic that has been particularly devastating in care homes.

When I make care home visits – virtual of course – one of the first questions is “When can normal visiting restart?” Last week I spoke with residents and staff at a care home in Yorkshire specialising for people with dementia. While that home has a brilliant visiting pod, seeing a loved one through a screen can be confusing and distressing for people with dementia.

That’s why I’m so pleased that care homes can now allow more personal visits and you can once again hold hands with someone you love.

Thanks to the fall in cases, volume of testing, and protections care homes have, from today they can begin to carefully open up again. With testing before entry and PPE on site, residents will be able to have a single named visitor for repeat visits.

Sometimes there will be good reasons (like an outbreak) why the home cannot offer visiting but care homes should not put blanket bans in place.

These are important steps in bringing loved ones together once again – one step among the many we look forward to taking.

Helen Whately is the Minister for Care.



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