Families of care home residents can look forward to giving their loved-ones a big hug this Christmas following the success of a cross-party campaign led by Daisy Cooper, the MP for St Albans.
Forty MPs from across the political spectrum had signed a joint letter to health secretary Matt Hancock deploring the lack of contact permitted by families with relatives in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MPs complained of a lack of guidelines to protect loved-ones from dying from loneliness and isolation, and they called on the Government to introduce measures to relieve the distress caused to families.
Now, as part of the Covid-19 Winter Plan the Government has committed to bring “an end to the pain of separation” by providing twice-weekly visitor testing to enable care home residents to have regular visits from up to two people.
Daisy Cooper MP commented:
“This announcement will have come as a huge relief to so many families – it’s a sign that the Government is finally listening to the horror and heartbreak experienced by so many family carers. Extending testing to family carers is a great step forward, but the Government must go further in making sure that care homes have everything they need to allow family carers to visit safely.”
Previously, during a debate in the House of Commons, Daisy spoke of the heartbreak she’d experienced listening to constituents who described the fear and isolation they knew their loved-ones were experiencing, including Steph Sykes, one of five children who before the pandemic had spent hours holding hands with their mother and providing essential close-contact care.
Following the Government announcement, Steph Sykes said: “I am immensely grateful to Daisy for the time she’s given me and the active and influential part she’s played in supporting the Rights for Residents Campaign, which is campaigning, along with many other organisations, such as Age UK, the National Care Forum and the Alzheimer’s Society, to bring an end to the isolation of care residents from their families.
Impact of physical and mental health
“This has had a catastrophic, life-reducing impact on their physical and mental health – the most vulnerable in society have been failed by this Government.
“Now, in response to this campaign, the Government has at last made a positive step – but further action is needed.
“First, care providers must be indemnified against the possibility of being sued if the virus were to be introduced into a care home by a visitor, as the NHS is. Second, the Government must take responsibility and issue clear, unequivocal guidance which puts an end to the current postcode and individual care home lottery.
“Family members must now be allowed to spend quality time with their loved ones, to hug and hold their hands. The tragedy is that for many it is now too late.”