Covid quarantine rules risk falsely imprisoning care home residents, campaigners for families claimed in a new move to take the Department of Health and Social Care to court.
A requirement for new care home residents to self-isolate for two weeks, as well as after an overnight stay away or spell in hospital, is being challenged by John’s Campaign, which claims the policy causes “heartbreak and pain”.
The charity, which campaigns for the rights of people with dementia and their families, said it had heard from a woman whose 57-year-old husband needed to go into hospital every few weeks for throat procedures and was now in more or less constant self-isolation in his room. She described his situation as “inhumane”.
The family of one 91-year-old woman, who was admitted to a care home at short notice and had to be isolated for 14 days, said she was very tearful, adding: “She has had nothing to do, is losing all ability to carry out things like turning on the TV or making a cup of tea.”
With Covid outbreaks in just six of England’s 15,000 care homes in the week ending 9 May 2021, the quarantine rule on trips out has been lifted to allow residents to attend medical appointments, have contact with others outdoors, and go to a day centre or place of worship without isolation afterwards.
But lawyers for the campaign said they would seek judicial review if the rule was not abandoned and replaced with individual risk assessments.
They stated: “[The rule] creates an unacceptable risk of illegality because it makes it likely that care providers will falsely imprison care home residents and deprive residents of their liberty.”
Julia Jones, co-founder of John’s Campaign, said: “We can see no scientific rationale for isolating individual residents when staff and visiting professionals within the care home community have no restriction on their movement other than those applicable across the country.
“How can the government advisers continually overlook the appalling effect of confinement and isolation on those least able to understand or survive it? No other individuals in our society, testing negative for Covid, have this punitive threat issued against them.”
Covid-19 case rates have shown signs of creeping up in the wider community but they remain as low as they were during early September 2020.
Since Monday care home residents have been able to nominate up to five named regular visitors; these visitors have to take lateral flow tests and wear PPE before entering care homes. Hugs remain banned.
Guidance by the DHSC regarding visits out states that quarantine after overnight stays is “under active review and it is our ambition that guidance on the need for self-isolation following overnight stays will be amended as soon as the data and evidence show it is safe”.
The department was approached for comment.