Home » Post-lockdown visiting bans at NHS hospitals and care homes are illegal, Tory MPs warn

Post-lockdown visiting bans at NHS hospitals and care homes are illegal, Tory MPs warn

by Press room

Visiting bans for patients stuck in hospital and care home residents are illegal, Tory MPs claimed today.

They warned that an ‘over-interpretation of testing guidelines is leading to isolation, neglect and abuse of vulnerable residents’.

Writing in a letter published in a newspaper today, senior Conservatives — including former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith — said denying visitation is ‘inhumane and cruel’. 

NHS guidelines were updated in March to allow two visitors ‘for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer’.

However, hospitals including Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex, have maintained limited visitation to one per day ‘for a maximum of one hour’.

No10 amended strict rules on care home visits in England on January 31, ditching all limits on the number visitors in homes. Blanket quarantine periods for homes were also cut from 28 to 14 days.

But the industry’s regulator, the Care Quality Commission, in February revealed that it had received complaints about access at 189 care services, including blanket bans on visiting at dozens of homes.

MPs claim Article 8 of the Human Rights Act and the Mental Capacity Act ‘could and should have protected against this situation arising’.

NHS guidelines were changed in March to allow two visitors at a bedside table, ‘for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer’. However, hospitals including Queen Victoria Hospital (pictured)  in East Grinstead, West Sussex, limit visits to one per day ‘for a maximum of one hour’

Yeovil Hospital still limits visits to just one person at a time, with a maximum of one hour stays

Yeovil Hospital still limits visits to just one person at a time, with a maximum of one hour stays

Hospitals including St Batholomew's in London still encourage A&E patients 'not to bring someone with them unless absolutely necessary'

Hospitals including St Batholomew’s in London still encourage A&E patients ‘not to bring someone with them unless absolutely necessary’

What are the NHS guidelines for hospital visits? 

Visiting should be accommodated for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer. 

Visiting policies also need to reflect that Covid  is in general circulation. 

The health, safety, mental health and wellbeing of our patients, communities and staff remain the priority.

Number of visitors at the bedside:

  • Two visitors
  • Patients may be accompanied where appropriate and necessary to assist their communication and/or to meet their health, care, emotional, religious, or spiritual care needs

These principles should also be applied in outpatient and diagnostic service settings and the emergency department where the patient may wish/need to be accompanied by somebody important to them. 

No patient should have to attend on their own unless it is their personal choice. 

Writing in the letter, sent to the Daily Telegraph, the signatories claimed visitation is a ‘crucial and fundamental right’. 

They said: ‘To deny this right is inhumane and cruel. 

‘Unsurprisingly, isolation and loss of social contact has a devastating impact on physical and psychological health.

‘Without the support of family and friends, health outcomes are poorer as patients and residents lose hope, sometimes even losing the will to live, often refusing treatment.

‘Campaigners are also warning of widespread and shocking safeguarding issues involving medication, hydration, hygiene and lack of basic care.’

The letter’s signatories also include former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost and ex-housing minister Esther McVey.

Labour’s Emma Lewell Buck and Graham Stringer, as well as DUP MP Sammy Wilson, gave the letter cross-party support.

Dozens of hospitals still have routine visits suspended, according to the newspaper, with the majority of hospitals having some limits in place.

These include having one named visitor per patient or only allowing entry for 30 minutes.

Yeovil Hospital still limits visits to just one person at a time, with a maximum of one-hour stays.

And hospitals including St Batholomew’s in London still encourage A&E patients ‘not to bring someone with them unless absolutely necessary’. 

NHS guidelines state ‘no patient should have to attend on their own unless it is their personal choice’.

The health service says: ‘It is important to recognise the contribution that visiting makes to the wellbeing and the person-centred care of patients; lack of access to visitors causes distress to them and their families.’

The letter also claims hospitals and care homes that refuse visitors are ‘failing’ the most vulnerable members of society.

Ms McVey said she is ‘troubled’ by the current situation, adding she will write to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid to make it ‘absolutely clear’ family members should be able to see their loved ones. 

NHS England said: ‘In line with the latest guidance, NHS Trusts should facilitate patient visits and measures should already be in place for this to be done safely.’ 

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