COVID-19: Banning care home visits 'inhumane and barbaric', says one still allowing family contact

·3-min read

A care home which has allowed visitors to hug their loved ones all the way through the current coronavirus lockdown says keeping relatives out is "inhumane and barbaric".

Adam Purnell, care quality lead at Kepplegate Residential Home in Lancashire, said visiting had continued non-stop since last June.

Not a single resident there has tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.

Mr Purnell told Sky News those going into the building were "essential family carers".

He added: "They're not just visitors, they're people who are integral to (residents') lives. We need them there."

One man comes in every day to give his wife her dinner. Relatives were "part of the team", Mr Purnell said.

It is almost a year since the initial lockdown began, and many care home residents have hardly seen their families.

"We're getting to the point now where it's becoming inhumane and barbaric," Mr Purnell said.

"We're tearing families apart in the name of safety when actually, safety's gone out the window, because all we're focused on is the numbers of people getting COVID, and nothing more. It's heart-breaking."

Kepplegate has bought its own lateral flow tests, and used spare PCR tests - meant for residents and staff - to test relatives.

Visits were distanced from June until December and in the run-up to Christmas, relatives were allowed to embrace and hold hands.

If a resident dies with coronavirus, some homes are concerned about potential litigation.

But Mr Purnell said that was not a worry at Kepplegate because residents and their families have been asked collectively whether they were prepared to take the risk of continued visits and have agreed.

Mr Purnell said residents' mental health was not being taken into account during the pandemic and government advice had been "super-vague".

Some homes say they need to cooperate with Public Health England before reopening to visitors, but Mr Purnell said PHE had "never had input into our visiting" and "never had contact about visiting".

He added: "Why care homes have to listen to PHE is beyond me."

Mr Purnell continued: "We know our home, we know our relatives, we know our staff. Other people don't know how to run our home better than we do."

He fears that vaccinations will not restart visits, saying that "Christmas hugs" were promised with the advent of lateral flow tests last autumn but "it's not happening".

He said care home staff have every right to turn down a jab. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed that "around two-thirds" of social care staff had so far received a vaccine.

But Mr Purnell added: "If staff aren't having the vaccine then the people living in those care homes aren't as safe as they possibly can be, so why should relatives continue to be denied access to their loved ones, to provide that holistic care?"

He has begun a series of interviews on YouTube called COVID Care Stories.

While asking people to take part, he has discovered that relatives being denied visits at other homes are being threatened if they go to the newspapers or broadcast media.

"They've been to the media before and their care homes have tried to put out an eviction notice to their loved one in the home," he explained.

For that reason, many people are deciding not to tell their stories, he added.

People keep telling him that what he is doing is amazing, Mr Purnell said, but he disagrees.

Allowing families to see their loves one is "just normal", he said.

"It's just life. Just because you live in a care home, it doesn't mean you lose your free will."