New secondary legislation is set to be introduced giving the legal right for visits in health and care settings.
Under plans announced by the Department of Health and Social Care, visiting is to become a legal requirement for hospitals, care homes, mental health units and other health and care settings.
The move follows Labour MP Dan Carden tabling proposals for new legislation earlier in June, and campaign group Care Rights UK meeting with ministers to discuss hospital and care home visiting rights.
Under current government and NHS England guidance, health and care settings should be allowing visits, but reported cases show visiting access continues to be unfairly denied in some circumstances.
Covid lockdown restrictions brought in in March 2020 prevented millions of people from seeing and visiting loved ones in person. Since the end of lockdown, no action has been taken by the Department of Health or the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to ensure care homes and hospitals open up to visitors, leaving access discretion to individual care homes and hospitals.
Last June, NHS leaders told hospitals they should return to pre-pandemic policies on visiting. The guidance said “no patient should be alone during their care unless this is their choice”.
New legislation would also give care industry regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a clearer basis for identifying where hospitals and care homes are not meeting the required standard.
Regulations are also to be reviewed in both inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, emergency departments and diagnostic services in hospitals, to allow patients to be accompanied by someone to appointments.
The government is now seeking views from patients, care home residents, their families, professionals and providers on the introduction of secondary legislation on revised visiting rights.