Hint of ‘good news’ over care home resident isolation rule

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The Health Secretary has hinted there may be “good news” soon for care home residents currently required to isolate for two weeks after a trip out, as he revealed the “vast majority” have had two vaccine doses.

Current guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) requires residents to isolate for 14 days after a trip out of the home.

The Government has been threatened with legal action over the rule, which campaigners say encourages care homes to act unlawfully by “falsely imprisoning” residents.

Coronavirus – Wed Apr 28, 2021
Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Rachel from Derby said her mother has been unable to leave her care home for almost 14 months and is now on anti-depressants after deteriorating, adding: “Please help us find a safe way for this to happen very soon.”

Mr Hancock said he was aware of the “risks and health consequences” of care home residents not having visitors and not being able to go out without then needing to isolate.

He said: “We are working on it right now, and in fact I had a meeting on this yesterday, to make sure we can get the rules right so that people can safely leave a care home and come back without bringing coronavirus back into the home.

“And especially now that vaccinations have taken place – amongst residents, the vast, vast majority have now had two doses and amongst staff vaccination rates are rising as well – and also because the rates of coronavirus are so much lower in the community, so I hope that we can have some good news for you soon, Rachel.”

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was “desperately important” to restore normality for people in residential care, but that this must be done carefully.

Coronavirus – Wed Apr 28, 2021
Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

“Those data are going to take a little while longer to give us real clarity,” he said.

“And they will help us pull this picture together so that I hope we can move with maximum safe speed to get back to normal.”

John’s Campaign is considering a challenge to the guidance, with lawyers sending a pre-action letter – the step before formal legal proceedings begin – to the DHSC.

Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard of John’s Campaign, who are represented by Leigh Day solicitor Tessa Gregory, said: “Vague promises that things might change in the future are not good enough.

“After a year of isolation and loneliness action is needed now.

“The current guidance on visits out is not fit for purpose, it is encouraging care homes to unlawfully imprison their residents and John’s Campaign will continue with their legal action unless and until the guidance is changed.”

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