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New Legal Rights Protecting Care Home Visiting Rights Now in Force

New legislation protecting the rights of families to visit care homes has come into force. Following consultation earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have now published final guidance to help providers understand and meet the new fundamental standard on visiting and accompanying in care homes, hospitals, and hospices.

The guidance also sets out what people using health and social care services and their families, friends or advocates can expect.

This regulation aims to make sure:

  • people staying in a care home, hospital or hospice can receive visits from people they want to see
  • people living in a care home are not discouraged from taking visits outside the home
  • people attending appointments in a hospital or hospice, that do not require an overnight stay, can be accompanied by a family member, friend or advocate if they want someone with them.

The regulation explains what providers must do to make sure they respect the right of each person to receive visits and to be accompanied, following an assessment of their needs and preferences.

Everyone, the new regulations state, should work on the assumption that in-person visiting and accompaniment to appointments are possible. Providers must put in place any measures or precautions necessary and proportionate to ensure that visiting and accompaniment can continue to happen safely.

These must be the least restrictive options and must be decided with the person using the service, and their family, friends or advocates where appropriate. The provider must help people to understand their options and make informed decisions, making reasonable adjustments where necessary. The provider, in partnership with people involved in the decision, should regularly review any precautions that have been implemented and should remove them as soon as possible. It is important that information is communicated clearly to the person using the service and those restricted from visiting throughout the process. The provider should also be clear with those involved who they can contact within the service if they have questions or concerns about any restrictions in place.

Very occasionally, there may be exceptional circumstances where, despite any precautions put in place, a visit or accompaniment may still pose a significant risk to the health, safety or welfare of a person using the service or on the premises. This risk will mean that, despite considering all possible actions and precautions, an in-person visit or accompaniment cannot be safely facilitated and there is no alternative but to restrict visiting or accompaniment at that time. If this is the case, the provider should put in place the necessary restriction and review arrangements regularly. As soon as circumstances change, the provider should remove the restriction and allow in-person visiting or accompaniment again.

A human rights-based approach to decision making can support providers in enabling visiting and accompaniment and when considering restrictions in complex situations. This includes considering the appropriate balance between a person’s right to private and family life, independence, choice and control, risk and safety. Providers must consider whether restrictions are lawful, legitimate and proportionate.

Providers must also make sure they take people’s mental capacity into account. They must make sure that either the person, or someone lawfully acting on their behalf, is involved in planning, managing and reviewing their care and treatment. This includes their right to having visitors and being accompanied to appointments. Providers must make sure decisions are made by those with the legal authority or responsibility to do so. They must work within the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Act includes a duty to consult others, such as families, unpaid carers and advocates, where practicable and appropriate.

Helen Wildbore, director of Care Rights UK, said:
“Creating a new fundamental standard on visiting is a huge step forward in recognising the importance of relationships with family and friends. We are pleased the government and CQC have acknowledged this as a vital part of good care.

“We hope the new regulation will remove the postcode lottery, ensuring people can maintain contact with loved ones across all settings. Meanwhile, we will continue to push for a new legal right to a care supporter, which is not about visiting but about the right to the support of someone we’ve chosen to act as our eyes, ears or voice when we need them, as a partner in care.”

Updated CQC guidance on visiting released last week can be found here.








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