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12 Jun 2023

Hot Take: Care home visits should be enshrined in law

Hot Take: Care home visits should be enshrined in law

Caring Times editor-in-chief, Lee Peart, backs the call for a new law enshrining the right of families to visit their loved ones in care homes.

Bereaved families gathered in Westminster to demand a new law to enshrine their legal right to visit their loved ones in health and care settings.

The move, which was led by newly formed activist group Care Rights UK and John’s Campaign, has won the backing of more than 60 MPs, over 70 organisations and celebrities, including: Stephen Fry, Martine McCutcheon, Russell T Davies, Jason Manford, Robson Green, Alice Beer, Hermione Norris, Denise Welch, Penny Smith, Colin McFarlane and Russell Watson.

Minister for care, Helen Whately, who has repeatedly signalled her backing for new legislation, was reported to be among attendees. 

The campaign was prompted by the traumatic isolation undergone by residents during Covid which saw a blanket ban on any visitors in order to protect care homes from the ravages of the virus. 

During this incredibly difficult time families were unable to physically meet with their loved ones in care. 

With their hands tied by government and public health bodies, care home providers were forced to innovate to ease the loneliness and isolation of residents through engineering visits through windows, drive-bys and visiting pods. 

In the worst days of the pandemic, carers were left to shoulder the enormous emotional burden of being the sole comforter to dying residents as their loved ones were denied the fundamental right of sharing their final hours. 

Unlimited visiting was only again granted in January 2022 in England, almost two years since the first national lockdown in March 2020. 

But even after the lifting of restrictions, campaigners continued to report some isolated cases of blanket bans remaining in place. 

The desperate scenes that occurred during the pandemic should never be allowed to occur again. 

A new law should be urgently adopted enshrining the rights of people in care homes and hospitals to have access to a designated loved one who can provide emotional support and care no matter what the situation. 

Care home visiting should be a fundamental human right. A new law would not only bring reassurance to vulnerable residents and their loved ones but also provide much needed clarity for care providers whose primary duty is to ensure the mental wellbeing and physical health of those in their care. 


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