'Barbaric' care home self-isolation rules scrapped after legal threat

Care home residents will be able to leave for ‘low risk’ visits without having to self-isolate for 14 days when they get back.

The rule change comes after the government was threatened with legal action, with family members calling the existing regime ‘barbaric’ and campaigners saying it encouraged care homes to act unlawfully by ‘falsely imprisoning’ residents.

From Tuesday, residents leaving their home for a walk or to visit a loved one’s garden will no longer have to isolate for two weeks on their return.

But they must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors, and stick to social distancing rules throughout.

They will not be allowed to go indoors, except to use the toilet or cast a vote in the upcoming local elections, and should avoid public transport where possible.

It is understood a resident would be able to eat outside at a restaurant or cafe with their care worker or nominated visitor if they agree this with the care home in advance.

However, those leaving for medical appointments and for overnight visits will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days as before.

The charity John’s Campaign threatened to issue legal proceedings next week unless the blanket self-isolation requirements were dropped.

Campaign co-founder Nicci Gerrard called the news a ‘chink of light for residents of care homes and their families’, but added: ‘Why did this rule ever exist in the first place – depriving people of their liberty, turning care homes into prison, treating one group of people with such cruelty?’

The charity’s fellow co-founder Julia Jones said: ‘It should never have been considered permissible to confine adult members of society, without their consent (or those who speak for them) merely because their address happens to be that of a care home.’

The Department for Health and Social Care is expected to review the self-isolation requirement for more visits when it reaches the next stage of the government’s road map on May 17.

It comes as new data shows that 95% of elderly residents have received one vaccine dose and 71% have received two.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘We know how challenging this time has been for care home residents, so I am pleased that they can now leave their homes to reunite with their loved ones outdoors.

‘With the data continuing to head in the right direction and as restrictions ease, it is my priority to keep increasing visits for residents in the coming weeks in a safe and controlled way.’

Care Minister Helen Whately added: ‘I know residents and their families have found the restrictions on trips out of care homes incredibly difficult.

‘This is one more step towards getting back to normal, while protecting care homes from the continued risk of Covid-19.

‘As part of this interim update before the next stage of the road map, care home residents will also be able to leave to spend time outdoors.

‘I know this has been long-awaited for those who haven’t had a chance to enjoy trips out. I look forward to encouraging more visiting and trips out in future as we turn the tide on this cruel virus.’

The DHSC said updated guidance will be published in due course.

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