A charity is seeking to legally challenge the Government over its guidance requiring care home residents to isolate for 14 days after overnight stays and on admission.
John’s Campaign has applied for permission for a judicial review of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) guidance at the High Court.
Originally, the Government said any resident leaving their care home in England must isolate for 14 days on their return.
The guidance was updated in early May enabling low-risk outdoor visits, and again later that month, allowing visits to hospitals as outpatients, GPs, dentists, day centres, workplaces and educational settings without needing to self-isolate after.
But following any overnight stay, including a hospital visit, and on admission, residents are still required to isolate for 14 days.
The DHSC has said its guidance will be kept under review, and its “ambition” is that the need for self-isolation following overnight stays will be amended as soon as evidence shows it is safe.
John’s Campaign says current guidance is unlawful because it encourages providers to falsely imprison residents, and makes it likely that providers will not conduct individual risk assessments.
The charity said the DHSC has told its lawyers from Leigh Day that the 14-day requirement is not mandatory.
But it said most providers see it as so, and the Care Quality Commission has said it expects providers to comply with Government guidance.
Leigh Day said testimonies show the requirement is having a “profound impact on the wellbeing of residents and in some cases is resulting in serious and irretrievable decline”.
The charity’s application includes evidence from people such as Anne, whose husband was admitted to a care home after his Alzheimer’s disease deteriorated in January.
She said: “It is an abomination that this 14-day isolation policy was dreamt up in the first place and persists when people are visiting pubs and raves, singing at football matches and generally doing far more ‘dangerous’ things than my frail and lonely husband.”
John’s Campaign co-founder Julia Jones said: “Listening to relatives and reading accounts of 14-day isolation has been a sickening experience.
“Most people wouldn’t shut an animal up for two weeks with no fresh air, exercise or companionship, yet this is happening routinely to new arrivals in our care homes, to people discharged from hospital needing rehabilitation and to young people (often with the understanding of toddlers) who need to spend time with their families.”
Director of the Relatives and Residents Association, Helen Wildbore, said the Government has “swung from one extreme to the other” with its care home response.
She said: “In the first wave, the sector was left without even basic protections and residents felt abandoned.
“Now, Government guidance imposes prison-like isolation which our helpline hears is having a devastating impact on wellbeing.
“Whilst the rest of the country is opening up, people living in care are being left behind in the most appalling way. This policy must be urgently amended.”