Government proposes enforceable right to visit care homes

The government is to consult with the public on giving the CQC new regulatory powers to compel care providers to allow families to visit their loved ones in care homes.

New regulations would establish a legal requirement for care homes and other health and care settings to allow visits – with the CQC being tasked with ensuring compliance. The government is seeking views from patients, residents, families, professionals, and care providers on its proposal to change the regulatory framework accordingly.

Currently, while government guidance states that health and care settings should be allowing visits, there have been many reported cases where visiting access has been unfairly denied. The new legislation would provide the CQC with a clear basis for identifying where care homes are not meeting their obligations regarding visits. The CQC would then be able to issue requirement or warning notices, impose conditions, or suspend or even cancel a registration.

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Many care homes and hospitals have made huge progress on visiting and recognising carers since the pandemic. But I don’t want anyone to have to worry about visiting anymore, or to face unnecessary restrictions or even bans.

“I have listened to campaigners who have been so courageous in telling their stories. I encourage everyone who cares about visiting to take this opportunity to have your say on our plans to legislate for visiting.”

Minister of Health Will Quince added: “It’s important that people feedback on the consultation, we want to make sure the legislation is right for everyone. If you’ve experienced unjust visiting bans, please share your experience.

“Challenges around visiting were exacerbated during the COVID pandemic, with many health and care settings restricting and banning visits to stop the spread of the virus, ease pressure on the NHS, and reduce the risk of transmission. Since restrictions were eased and there was a return to normality, many health and care settings have made efforts to return to pre-pandemic visiting. There are, however, still instances where families and friends continue to face issues with visiting across the health and care sector.

“The CQC does currently have powers to clamp down on unethical visiting restrictions, but the expected standard of visiting is not specifically outlined in regulations. Current guidance from government and the NHS is clear that all care homes and hospitals in England respectively are expected to facilitate visits in a risk-managed way, such as through the use of face coverings in the event of an outbreak or in the reduction of the number of visitors at one time.”

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