The Department of Health and Social Care is consulting (with a closing date of 16 August 2023), seeking “views on introducing secondary legislation to protect visiting as a fundamental standard across CQC-registered settings so that no one is denied reasonable access to visitors while they are resident in a care home, or a patient in hospital or a hospice. This includes accompanying people to hospital appointments (outpatients or diagnostic visits).“
In terms of formulating responses, it may be of assistance to some to note that the Joint Committee on Human Rights made the following recommendation in its report published in July 2022 on protecting human rights in care settings (full disclosure, I was the specialist adviser to the Committee for this inquiry):
81. We still do not believe that there are sufficient measures in place to ensure adequate respect for the right to private and family life (Article 8 ECHR) in relation to care users and visiting arrangements in care settings.
82. We remain concerned that in England, non-statutory guidance that intends to restrict visiting does not adequately meet the criteria of “in accordance with the law” that is required for any interferences with human rights. Moreover, given the variable application of the guidance, it also seems to be failing to ensure adequate positive protection for the right to family and private life. Even if every care setting now complied with the guidance seeking to facilitate visiting, stronger assurances would be needed to adequately protect the rights of care users and their loved ones against future improper interference.
83. The Government must introduce legislation to secure to care users the right to nominate one or more individuals to visit and to provide support or care in all circumstances, subject to the same infection prevention and control rules as care staff.
84. The Government must legislate to give the CQC the power to require care settings to inform them of any changes to their visiting status, and to report live data on levels of visiting and restrictions. The CQC must make compliance with visiting restrictions a key consideration when undertaking its regulatory and monitoring roles.