Health Secretary “Hints” At Care Resident Isolation Reform

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said care home residents and their families may have some “good news” as the Government is “working on” how care home residents can leave their care homes for trips and family visits out without having to isolate for two weeks upon their return.

Current guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) requires residents to isolate for 14 days after a trip out of the home.

At a Downing Street briefing yesterday (28 April), Matt Hancock was asked by a member of public when residents will be able to go outside for a walk without having to self-isolate and replied that he hoped to have ‘some good news’ on the issue soon

The government has been threatened with legal action over the rule, which campaigners say asks care homes to act unlawfully by falsely imprisoning residents.

During the briefing, a member of the public raised the issue of her mother being unable to leave her residential care setting for 14 months leading to a deterioration in their health, in response Mr Hancock said he was aware of the “risks and health consequences” of care home residents not having visitors and not being able to go out without then needing to isolate.

“We are working on it right now. I had meeting on this yesterday to make sure that we can get the rules right so that people can safely leave a care home and come back without bringing coronavirus back into the home.

“And especially now that vaccinations have taken place – amongst residents, the vast, vast majority have now had two doses and amongst staff vaccination rates are rising as well – and also because the rates of coronavirus are so much lower in the community, so I hope that we can have some good news for you soon, Rachel.” He said.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was “desperately important” for people’s mental health.

Mr Van Tam said more data was needed on whether the vaccines work as well in the “extremely frail elderly as they do in the fit and younger adult”, as well as the clinically vulnerable.

“Those data will take a little while longer to give us real clarity. And they will help us pull this picture together so that I hope we can move with maximum safe speed to get back to normal.”

He said more data was needed on whether the vaccines work as well in the “extremely frail elderly as they do in the fit and younger adult”, as well as in the clinically vulnerable.

“Those data are going to take a little while longer to give us real clarity,” he said.

“And they will help us pull this picture together so that I hope we can move with maximum safe speed to get back to normal.”

Concerns are being raised regarding the forthcoming local elections which under the latest government guidance, prevents residents from leaving their care home to exercise their “inalienable” right to vote in person, since if they do head out to the voting booth, they will find themselves facing 14 days of isolation on their return.

Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF) said “The whole experience of voting for the majority of people living in care homes will have been in person, often for many years at the same polling station, going through the motions in a way that is both familiar and a connection to wider society. Getting the vote is a rite of passage. Losing the right to vote in person is a national scandal.”

As politicians (both local and national) across England, Scotland and Wales take up the campaign trail again this week, there are a group of constituents who will be feeling that their voices and opinions are less valid and less valuable than the rest of the population.

It could be argued that care home residents can register to vote by post, or to have a proxy to vote for them. However, that is, and should be, a choice. It should not be because other opportunities to exercise their democratic right has been removed by the government.

Rayner said:

“As soon as it became apparent that everyone would not be able to share full access to the voting options, then the elections should have been paused, or we should have found a way where the opportunities for all to vote were equalised. This could have been achieved by introducing postal voting for all, or if that was not possible, then having a concerted targeted deliberate campaign that ensured that each and every individual effectively barred from voting in person on the day, was made fully aware of the options available to them for post and proxy and enabled to exercise their choices in a meaningful way. There has not been additional support provided to care homes to make sure that those constituents, many of whom will have very strong political opinions, are enabled to vote. In fact, it would seem that there has not even been a recognition that the latest guidance on visiting out from care homes takes the decision to vote in person firmly out of the hands of care home residents.”

As we move out of lockdown, there will be many concerned about voting in person. The Electoral Commission has been doing everything possible to reassure voters that visiting a polling station will be ‘safe’ and that people should be confident to vote in this way.

 

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