Care home residents will be able to spend time with loved ones in “low risk” visits without having to self-isolate on their return, the Government has said after being threatened with legal action.
From Tuesday, residents leaving their home for a walk or to visit a loved one’s garden will no longer have to isolate for two weeks on their return.
But those leaving for medical appointments and for overnight visits will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days, according to the PA news agency.
Government threatened with legal action
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) removed the requirement for outdoor, “low risk” visits after being threatened with legal action by the charity John’s Campaign.
Campaigners said the rule encourages care homes to act unlawfully by “falsely imprisoning” residents, with family members calling it “barbaric”.
Under the changes, residents on visits out must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors, and follow social distancing throughout.
They cannot meet in groups or go indoors – except for the use of toilets – and public transport should be avoided where possible.
It is understood a resident would be able to eat outside at a restaurant or cafe with their care worker or nominated visitor if they agree this with the care home in advance.
Residents will also be able to vote in person in the upcoming local elections without having to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards.
DHSC to review restrictions on May 17
The DHSC is expected to review the self-isolation requirement for more visits when it reaches the next stage of the Government’s road map on May 17.
It comes as new data shows that 95% of elderly residents have received one vaccine dose and 71% have received two.
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.”
The DHSC said updated guidance will be published in due course.
Rule change ‘massively inadequate’
John’s Campaign co-founder Julia Jones said the rule change did not go far enough, saying it was “massively inadequate” that the isolation requirement remains for those who leave to visit the doctor.
Asked if she was celebrating the move, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m waiting until we see the guidance.
“I still struggle to see what legal right the Government thinks it has for preventing people with full mental capacity from walking out of their homes the same as every other member of the population. I struggle to see why they should be under surveillance.”
Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory, who is representing John’s Campaign, said legal proceedings were due to be issued next week.
She said: “This is good news but as always the devil will be in the detail and John’s Campaign will be scrutinising the new guidance once it is published to ensure that it is lawful and fit for purpose.”