Dozens of care homes are still denying people access to their loved ones aged 20 months after the start of the pandemic, support groups say.
Although ministers have urged nursing homes to allow loved ones to visit, groups such as the Parents & Residents Association and Unlock Care Homes say many still cannot see elderly residents.
Since March, families can designate an “essential caregiver” (ECG) who can provide regular close support to a loved one in a retirement home. About 70% of elderly nursing home residents suffer from dementia, and research from John’s Campaign shows that loved ones are often able to better interpret their behavior and comfort them.
Yet healthcare providers may reject requests for ECG status. Diane Pickup of Unlock Care Homes, which has had a series of disputes with her mother’s care home, said she was “turned down”.
In September, the Rights for Residents group, led by West End actress Ruthie Henshall, delivered a petition signed by 250,000 people in Downing Street, calling for all people living in shelters to have the legal right to a essential caregiver, but so far the ministers have not acted. A survey of Rights for Residents members showed that almost a quarter had been denied ECG status.
Figures from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs show that 7.4% of care homes – over 1,000 – do not allow visits, although in most of these cases this is a temporary restriction due to suspected Covid epidemic, according to the Commission for the quality of care. .
Helen Wildbore, director of the Parents & Residents Association, said the numbers on care home visits were concerning because too much was still not being measured.
“Government statistics indicate that about 92% of nursing homes allow visits. But the question asked is so broad that a care home could tick yes, even if it could deny access to essential caregivers, or only allow families half an hour a week. We are really concerned that no one is monitoring this. We do not know how many people have been denied essential caregiver status. We don’t know how many people still only have 30 minutes a week.
“This is an attack on the human rights of older people, and it is devastating for them and their families.
“Calls to our helpline show that everyone in the rest of the country is gone and those in care have been left behind – that’s discrimination. They still live with restrictions on who they can see, while anyone can roam the world and go out to a nightclub.
“The people who call on us for help are desperate at the injustice of it. They feel that there is no hope offered. They ask us how long will this last?
Amanda Hunter of Unlock Care Homes said, “There is a lot of evidence that people don’t get any visits at all. They are told that yes, they can have a 30-minute slot.
But if it’s booked by someone else, good luck. Often it’s one family member a week.
“The idea that you have to book a time slot to see your own family member, I just think it’s obnoxious. It shouldn’t go on anymore.”
Jane Smith used to visit her mother, Rita Hookway, three hours a day before the closures started. But during the pandemic restrictions, relations with the outbreak deteriorated.
“Mum received notice to leave just before Christmas,” she said.
Smith was denied ECG status and, since her mother’s death in May, she has filed complaints about her mother’s care.
Last month, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights wrote to the Quality of Care Committee asking why it had failed to act on several recommendations made in May to monitor how healthcare providers care allowed residents to receive visitors.
Harriet Harman, chair of the committee, said in the letter: “It is clear that many care homes have very restrictive visiting rules, potentially against government guidelines… relatives and patients are still concerned that the restrictions will still be. applied indiscriminately. , and that family members do not have the right to see their loved ones without an appropriate individualized risk assessment. “
On Friday, the CQC responded that it had tracked 51 suspected cases of blanket visitation bans, but had to take action against just two care providers.
Peter Wyman, Chairman of the CQC, wrote: “We do not have the power, under legislation given to us by Parliament, to require nursing homes to notify us of any change in their visiting status. . Likewise, under our legislation, we do not have the authority to require nursing homes to report their ‘live visit level data’, nor do we have the authority to take action against nursing homes that do not report changes in their visitation status to us. “