Splash Corona virus infection covid cases in winter may lead to the reimposition of strict visiting restrictions care homes and hospitals, deputies and campaigners warned.
Families still face ‘postcode lottery’ of Covid restrictions on care homeswith limited visiting hours and mandatory PPE.
However, MPs are concerned that some will re-impose even tougher measures if the number of Covid cases rises this winter.
Daily global Covid infections are projected to slowly rise to around 18.7 million by February, compared to the current 16.7 million daily average cases in October this year.
In the UK, the current wave of Covid cases appears to have peaked, but scientists have warned that another wave of the disease will hit the country before the end of the year.
MPs are calling on the government to pass legislation that would enshrine the right of primary carers to be present with their loved ones in care facilities.
Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper said one of her constituents, Lynne, was not allowed into the emergency room to see her husband Andy when his dementia worsened at Christmas last year.
The hospital wouldn’t let Andy visit for two weeks until Ms Cooper intervened. When she was allowed in, Lynn was dismayed to discover that Andy had lost a lot of weight during the weeks he had been in isolation.
Ms Cooper continued: “We’ve come a long way since last Christmas and since the start of the pandemic, but as winter approaches, the NHS and healthcare facilities are expected to once again be dealing with a surge in Covid cases.
“It is possible that what happened to Lynn and Andy could happen to them and many others.”
“With winter approaching, there’s not a minute to waste,” said Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives and Residents Association.
“With the political will, the new law can be passed quickly and will send a powerful signal to health and care services across the country; contact with loved ones is vital for dignified care.’
Around 11 per cent of nursing homes did not allow residents to have visitors during the Covid outbreak between April and September this year, the association’s survey found.
This is despite the fact that government guidelines explicitly state that during outbreaks, people should be allowed to see individual visitors.
More than 60 percent of these homes were reported to have implemented additional restrictions beyond what was declared by the government when Covid was in the home.
The charity collected data from more than 650 households to highlight the rules that are still in place in some homes.
“I have to meet my relative in a capsule on the street during the epidemic. We have to wear a mask, gloves and an apron,” said one of the respondents.
“We are not allowed in the house and if anyone else has booked the pod we are not allowed to visit.”
In one case shared with the Jones campaign, a 93-year-old man with dementia was only allowed one hour a day of visitation during a hospital stay in September of this year.
Security reportedly told his wife to leave when she tried to stay another 20 minutes to feed him more food.
His granddaughter said: “Sadly he died in hospital a few weeks ago. Knowing that the last days of his life were spent without anyone he knew for 23 hours a day while he was alone and confused is heartbreaking.”
Speaking in parliament about the need for new legislation, Tory MP Tracey Crouch urged the government: “This issue has cross-party support, we could do it and we could do it quickly before winter.”
Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts warned that “as we move into winter, the option of restrictions will be an option being considered by many care facilities”.
“Instructions alone were not enough,” she added.
Labor MP Dan Walker said his father, who died last year, was left in hospital before he died.
His father, Mike, was left in the side room of the emergency room for three days, during which time he was not given a hot meal, showered or washed, or helped to change.
He was also unable to get help in the restroom. After being transferred to a ward, he was left with an emergency signal out of reach.
Hospital policy at the time was that visitors could only be for people who were clearly end-of-life patients. Mr Walker’s father did not qualify despite having sepsis and lung cancer.
“My mum said it meant that instead of focusing on caring and supporting my husband in his final weeks, we had to fight in the hospital to see him,” he said.
“The trauma of my husband’s death, and particularly the neglect he felt in his last weeks, remains with me,” Mr Walker quoted his mother as saying.
He warned that the government’s current guidance was leading to a “postcode lottery” where different settings would interpret the rules as they wished.
Helen Whatley, a minister at the Department of Health and Social Care, said she “does not find the current status quo acceptable”.
She promised she was “on the case” and said she had commissioned work on “steps I can take to look into this”.