Elderly ‘falling into abyss’ as families battle to visit their loved ones in care homes

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Both the Care Quality Commission and Department of Health and Social Care were unable to say how many essential care givers are now registered. They are nominated by care home residents and should be allowed unrestricted access for visits under Covid guidance first issued in March. But tens of thousands of families claim they have been refused this status with the danger that elderly residents are “falling into the abyss”.

A Daily Express investigation has now revealed government bodies do not know how many homes are complying with the guidance. Helen Wildbore, director of The Relatives and Residents Association, said: “It is deeply concerning that no one knows how many people’s rights are being breached by lack of compliance with visiting guidance.

“It is shameful to see the Department of Health and Social Care and the Care Quality Commission passing the buck between them, when they both have a duty under law to uphold rights. Meanwhile, older people are falling into the abyss, failed by the very systems designed to protect their rights.

“The Government and CQC must take urgent action to fill this gap, start monitoring compliance and end the human rights crisis in care.”

Care home campaign group Rights For Residents said: “Families will be outraged to learn neither the CQC or DHSC are monitoring even the most critical aspects of their own guidance, such as the nomination of essential care givers.

“There is widespread flouting of this, which continues to have catastrophic effects on the lives of those living in care settings. Vulnerable residents have been consistently failed by the Government and the regulator as they refuse to put in place robust mechanisms to identify those homes that refuse to follow guidelines.

“Relatives have lost all faith in the CQC’s ability to ensure care services provide safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care. An urgent radical overhaul is needed.”

Actress Ruthie Henshall, who lobbied the Government to make ECGs a legal right, said: “I am devastated for all in care and all who are families of those in care. You are being lied to and no one with a voice or the power to effect change seems to be taking notice.”

In September, Ruthie led a march on Downing Street demanding the implementation of “Gloria’s Law” in honour of her mother, who died at 87 after living in a care home during lockdown. Since March, every home resident has had the right to nominate individuals who should be allowed unrestricted access. ECGs should be able to visit in most circumstances, according to the guidance.

It says there is no limit on the number of named visitors a single resident can have and no nationally set limit on the number who can vdE ca i the pandemic still battling relatives visit in a single day. Without the ECG figures, campaigners say it is impossible to know which homes are complying and which are blatantly flouting c the guidance. Despite a national outcry, the guidance remains voluntary and homes and providers can simply ignore it, leaving desperate families helpless and adrift.

Legal rights would give them guaranteed access regardless of Covid outbreaks, restrictions, lockdowns or variants. But, 18 months after the Covid emergency blew up, and at a time most of the UK has fully opened up, some families continue to tell horror stories of battling to see their loved ones. The care home scandal has affected residents and their relatives across the nation.

Last year, we reported how greatgrandmother Elizabeth Bow, 78, faced eviction from her care home after her daughter made an “unauthorised window visit” – by trying to talk to her through an open patio door, it was said.

The Daily Express used Freedom of Information laws to ask health bosses how many ECG requests had been made, how many were granted, how many refused, and how many complaints were received.

The CQC said it could not provide answers to the first three because “this is not information CQC would hold as this is not within the remit of our role”.

In response to the final question, it said providing an answer would be too costly.

Despite drawing up the guidance, the DHSC told us it does not hold the information and “we are not the appropriate authority to contact on this subject”. It suggested we get in touch with the CQC. The DHSC was unable to say why it did not collect the data.

A spokesman said: “We are doing everything we can to support care providers to facilitate visits safely, including ensuring all residents can nominate an essential care giver, removing limits on visitors and reducing the period of time visit restrictions apply following an outbreak.” There are around 500,000 people living in 17,600 care homes in the UK.

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