Care home visits are usually subject to guidance issued by the Care Quality Commission, which regulates care homes. In October 2019, this was updated and states that: “The staff should make it as easy as possible for you to visit your relative or friend. They should respect your relationship and give you as much privacy as they can.” A number of regulations and Acts of Parliament support this position.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined this and there are a myriad of changing rules over whether you can or cannot physically visit a relative in their care home. The regulations governing visits now come from the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 which were issued in November 2020. The government does currently support face-to-face visits if there are protective measures in place.
If your care home has substantial transparent screens installed, visiting pods, a place to hold a window visit, or even a suitable well-ventilated room where social distancing can take place in PPE, then a face-to-face meeting may be possible. Care home providers, families and local professionals are expected to work together to decide the right balance between the benefits of a visit, in all circumstances, and the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to social care staff and vulnerable residents. Each home is different and will have a different array of possible solutions. Ultimately, for the time being, it is up to the care provider to decide whether a visit can take place safely or not.
What If I Disagree with the Care Provider’s Decision?
Firstly, you should identify ways in which you believe a meeting with your relative could take place safely, and make your suggestions to the care home. If these are not agreed by the care home as being adequate measures to enable a visit, then you should ask for written reasons why the care home believes the proposals to be too risky.
If you disagree with the care home’s reasoning, you can make a complaint. If unsatisfied with the handling of your complaint, you can escalate the complaint to the Care Quality Commission. Also, you can also consider whether a breach of the care contract has occurred, and this may be true even if visiting is not expressly mentioned in the contract. There are implicit terms in a care home contract, which include human rights and consumer rights legislation.
In the case that the issue remains unsolved by the Care Quality Commission, you should seek legal advice.