Visits to see loved ones in care homes, hospitals and hospices will be protected under plans announced by the government. Changes will be made to the law so that visits are a fundamental standard of care, putting them on par with having access to food and drink and properly qualified staff.
The Care Quality Commission will have a clear mandate to check that providers are meeting these obligations, so that those in care maintain vital connections with family and friends.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, said: "Spending time with loved ones makes all the difference to the wellbeing of people in care homes and hospices. Of course, keeping people safe from infections is important, but this is about striking the right balance.
"I know how painful it can be when you’re stopped from seeing someone who means everything to you, especially when you don’t know how much time they have left. It’s something I don’t want anyone to have to go through again. That’s why we’re changing the law to recognise just how much visiting matters."
Visiting was restricted at the height of the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID and keep people safe, but as restrictions eased the guidance for visiting in hospital and care settings changed accordingly.
The majority of settings adhered to the guidance but there have been reports of people being denied access to family members and loved ones, so the government has acted to make sure expectations around visits are clear to providers.
Minister for Health and Secondary Care, Andrew Stephenson, said: "Being able to visit a loved one or go with them to an outpatient appointment can make a huge difference and there should be no reason to deny either the visitor or patient the joy or reassurance of that face-to-face connection.
"Most settings quickly accommodated visiting again once we came out of the worst of the pandemic, but we need everyone to do so, which is why we’re putting a clear system in place to make sure care homes, hospitals and hospices are giving visiting the importance it deserves."