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Care homes accused of ‘playing God’ by refusing to allow families to hug loved ones

Care homes have been accused of ‘playing God’ by refusing to allow families to hug their loved ones despite the new government advice on care home visits.

The Government announced on Tuesday that visitors would be allowed to hug and hold hands with care home residents as long as they had received a negative Covid test and wore PPE. 

The Government said the rapid result lateral flow tests were now available to allow visiting to take place.

Since the Government announced care home visits would be allowed with lateral flow testing, reports have emerged that families across the country are being refused entry (stock photo)

However, since the announcement, it has emerged that people across the country are still being refused contact with their loved ones.

And all ten councils in Greater Manchester are advising people against using these tests in care homes, days after Sheffield council said the same.

Care homes are facing increasing pressure to allow residents to visit with families and have now been accused of ‘playing God’. 

Julia Jones, the co-founder of John’s Campaign, a dementia rights organisation, said: ‘It’s really shocking.

‘There’s a deep, entrenched, unwillingness to welcome families … it’s becoming much more obvious that certain care homes just don’t want families in.

‘I think there’s a deep property war going on where it’s seen as ‘our residents’, but it’s actually ‘my mother, ‘my husband’.

Speaking with the Daily Telegraph, Ms Jones added: ‘They are not God, they must allow people to make their own decisions as adults.’

Sarah Hatchett, Head of Care at King Charles Court nursing home, Falmouth, oversees the demo of a rapid Covid-19 test on Manager Melissa Jones during pilot programme in November

Sarah Hatchett, Head of Care at King Charles Court nursing home, Falmouth, oversees the demo of a rapid Covid-19 test on Manager Melissa Jones during pilot programme in November

On Thursday, Manchester became the latest major city to signal that it will advise care homes not to follow the Government’s care home visits guidelines. In a blow to thousands of families. 

Mayor Andy Burnham said that there was ‘very considerable concern’ about the use of lateral flow tests, which give a result in 30 minutes.

Jenny Morrison, the founder of Rights for Residents, which has 4,500 members, told MailOnline that one member has already been refused a visit by her mother’s care home – and offered a Zoom call on Christmas Day instead.

‘Our member called the care home excited like the rest of us about the Government’s proposals – only to be told ‘you can have a Zoom call on Christmas Day and watch her eat her lunch’. She’s heartbroken’, Ms Morrison said.

She added: ‘It’s turning into a postcode lottery. This is happening all over the country now – to suggest this is a humane approach is staggering.

Many families have not been able to properly visit loved ones in care homes since March - and a promise of testing by the Government is not being followed by all providers across the UK

Many families have not been able to properly visit loved ones in care homes since March – and a promise of testing by the Government is not being followed by all providers across the UK

‘Some care homes are saying basically, if you don’t like it you can move your relative somewhere else’.

With mounting pressure facing care homes, representatives have argued the Government’s announcement has put them in difficult positions and called on the Government to address concerns.

Vic Rayner, the executive director at the National Care Forum, told the Telegraph visiting was ‘an essential element of the delivery of good care.

‘The emerging pictures of local authorities offering directly conflicting advice around the efficacy of the test, in contrast to the opinions held by central government, place care homes in an invidious position.

‘The Government must as a matter of urgency come up with evidence that addresses the concerns raised.’

Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, which represents more than 50,000 residents, said care homes now faced ‘huge burdens’ being placed on them as the Government had sent out testing kits ‘without any extra resources to administer them’, or training ‘to ensure that they can be deployed effectively’.

Martin Green, of Care England, called for the Government to issue firmer guidance saying the current rules are mired in ‘ambiguity’ that allows local authorities to make their own decisions.

He said that care homes fear they could face legal action if visits go ahead and there is a subsequent Covid outbreak, as well as if they block visits altogether.

He said: ‘If you take the Government’s advice then you might find yourself in hot water later because of that.

‘If you take the local authority’s advice and you can’t reinstate visiting then you might be in potential breach of the Human Rights Act.

‘In a way, you will be damned if you and damned if you don’t.’

Guidelines published by the Department for Health this week after a Daily Mail campaign for Christmas visits to go ahead orders care homes to consider equalities and human rights legislation.

Nick Freeman, a criminal defence lawyer, said: ‘The Mail has highlighted the humanitarian aspect of why care home visits must go ahead, but there is also a strong legal argument.

‘Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights covers the right to a family life. This encompasses all things that you expect a family to do – see sick parents, terminally ill relatives, or sit down for Christmas as a family.’

Care bosses claim that they are terrified of the prospect of legal action linked to the pandemic, which has already seen insurance premiums rocket by up to 880 per cent. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Extensive testing has shown that lateral flow devices, which can return results in under an hour, are suitable for use in care homes where they can identify people who are the most likely to spread the virus further and prevent transmission of the disease from staff and visitors.

‘Testing is only part of the approach and it’s essential visitors wear PPE and follow all infection control methods to keep their loved ones, other residents and staff safe.

‘We have sent more than a million tests, provided free PPE and issued guidance to help bring families back together.

‘Care home residents in all tiers will have the chance to see their relatives soon and homes across the country are arranging visits now.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk