Some care homes in England are operating “unacceptable” blanket bans against visitors contrary to Government guidance, the care watchdog has said.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said providers should not wait until the vaccination programme is complete before allowing loved ones to visit residents.
It intervened after becoming aware of blanket decisions “continuing to be made against Government guidance” in some areas.
The CQC said that while providers are “rightly cautious” they “mustn’t wait for the completion of the vaccination programme to facilitate visits”.
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC, said: “Blanket bans are unacceptable and people should follow Government guidelines, give sufficient weight to local risks and advice from their director of public health, as well as giving consideration to the home environment.
“The individual must be at the centre of the decision and all decisions need to stay under review as circumstances change.”
Current Government guidance says visiting is “vital” and should be supported and enabled wherever it is possible to do so safely.
It says care home visits can take place outdoors, through windows, in visiting pods, or indoors with a substantial screen, but close-contact indoor visits are not allowed.
End of life visits “should always be supported and enabled”.
From March 8 all care home residents will be able to receive regular indoor visits from a nominated person who will be tested and wear personal protective equipment, the Government has said.
It forms part of the first stage of easing pandemic restrictions across the country.
Guidance detailing the changes will be published in the week commencing March 1.
The CQC is asking any care home with a blanket decision on visiting to inform their local inspector and review the decision.
It said it may inspect homes if it receives reports of blanket visiting bans and will take regulatory action if appropriate.
The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) is calling for the CQC to actively monitor how care homes are complying with guidance.
With Government guidance being advisory, the campaign group says it is “vital” the CQC ensures compliance, and is calling for it to be “far more rigorous” in combating isolation.
R&RA director Helen Wildbore said: “Following the Prime Minister’s promise to older people in care that they will be reunited with their families, he must now ensure this becomes a reality.
“If the plan to reopen care homes is not to be made law, new guidance on visiting must build in a system to monitor compliance, to ensure change happens on the ground.
“It is unacceptable that relatives and friends have had to step in to fill the gap and chase homes for compliance. CQC must now take a proactive role in monitoring care homes’ implementation of the visiting guidance.
“They must ensure all care homes see facilitating visiting as intrinsic to delivering good care and treating people with dignity.”