Care home campaigners issue fresh legal threat against Govt over self-isolation rule

4 May 2021, 13:00 | Updated: 4 May 2021, 16:42

Mixed reaction as care home visits restart

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Care home campaigners have issued a fresh threat of legal action against the government if it continues to require residents to self-isolate for 14 days after any visit out.

Over the weekend, ministers announced they were dropping the "barbaric" rules that banned residents from visiting family members due to coronavirus.

Staff at care homes largely welcomed the decision, but some warned that low resources could put stress on the system.

However, some campaigners have said the new rules do not go far enough and are demanding the removal of any requirement for residents to self-isolate for 14 days after a visit out.

As it stands, care home residents can now leave to go for a walk without having to self-isolate for 14 days when they return. However, they still need to self-isolate for two weeks if go on an overnight visit or attend medical appointments.

They will also be allowed to visit a loved one's garden and vote in the upcoming local elections without having to shut themselves away afterwards.

READ MORE: Care home residents can visit loved ones without isolating after 'barbaric' rules dropped

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Care home residents are allowed to visit family members outdoors for the first time in months
Care home residents are allowed to visit family members outdoors for the first time in months. Picture: PA Images

But John's Campaign, an organisation that represents care home residents and their relatives, has issued a fresh threat of legal action against the government unless it refuses to completely drop the controversial quarantine rule.

The group said it is writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand the policy is dropped when the guidance is updated on 10 May, otherwise they will issue legal proceedings "without delay".

Co-founder Julia Jones said: "No-one is helped to feel better, stronger or happier by being isolated for 14 days and it’s patently ludicrous – as well as cruel – to make this the penalty for a visit to hospital outpatient department, an optician or a dentist.

"If these places are not safe for people who live in care homes (who have the highest rate of vaccination and antibody protection), they are not safe for anyone.

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"Additionally, no other group of people is isolated when they move house or come out of hospital (testing negative for Covid 19).

"The 14-day isolation requirement should now be consigned to history’s Bin of Shame.”

The group's lawyer Tessa Gregory said: "Whilst our clients welcome the changes that were belatedly announced over the weekend, they expect the government on 10 May to issue new lawful guidance that does not contain blanket self-isolation requirements and ensures that care providers individually risk assess residents for visits out.

"It cannot be right that the government are telling care homes that any resident, who attends a hospital appointment or stays overnight at their family’s house as part of their care plan, must be required to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.”

Relatives of residents had attacked the previous rules alongside LBC's Nick Ferrari.

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Care home manager Irene Anderson told LBC she was "really happy" that restrictions have been eased.

"Families can now come into the home to visit - we do room visits - obviously we will just follow the Government guidelines and work with families and see how we get on," she added.

Reflecting on the pandemic, she said: "It's been challenging... but we managed to get through it.

"We've supported our residents, we've done lots of things with the residents to make them happy, we've done lots of activities and enabled our residents to do video calls with their families."

But some care home managers are concerned that smaller homes and those with staff shortages will struggle to deliver the Government's new guidance, with regular testing needing to be carried out.

Nicola Rowland, manager at Manor Park care home, told LBC: "I would love to let families in because we are built for this - we are a family-run care home and we are family-orientated.

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"But I also don't want Covid in my care home because I don't want to lose anyone that we care about.

"I do understand where the campaigners are coming from and hope we can find a safe way, but even now I've read some of the guidance and I don't even know how we're going to be able to do all of that stuff."

Announcing the easing of the rules, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We know how challenging this time has been for care home residents, so I am pleased that they can now leave their homes to reunite with their loved ones outdoors.

"With the data continuing to head in the right direction and as restrictions ease, it is my priority to keep increasing visits for residents in the coming weeks in a safe and controlled way.

"Residents will still need to self-isolate for 14 days if they embark on an overnight visit or attend medical appointments. They cannot meet in groups or go indoors, except to use toilets, and have been asked to avoid public transport where possible."