West End star Ruthie Henshall urges Government to ‘step up’ on care home visits

Actress Ruthie Henshall has said the Government needs to “step up” and ensure there is no “grey area” around families being able to see loved ones in care homes.

From Tuesday, residents leaving their home to go for a walk or to visit a loved one’s garden will no longer have to isolate for two weeks on their return.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) removed the requirement for outdoor, “low-risk” visits after being threatened with legal action by the charity John’s Campaign.

West End star Henshall said this does not go far enough and relatives of care home residents should have essential caregiver status by law, which would allow them to visit their loved ones in the case of another Covid-19 outbreak.

Appearing in Parliament Square on Tuesday, she told the PA news agency families being able to see their loved ones in care homes was a “human rights issue”.

Henshall joined a group of campaigners, who waved placards and posed for media, in delivering a petition signed by more than 300,000 people to Westminster.

She said: “Residents have to have a voice forever and the trouble is they can’t go out and stand there with placards and say, ‘Nobody is listening’ and ‘I am lonely’.

“They are the silent ones.

“We have to have this law because they have to have a voice.

“It is imperative that they get a voice before they haven’t got one, like my mother.

“It is cruel beyond.

“She was walking and talking before the first lockdown.

“She now doesn’t walk or talk.

“Her food is mushed up, her drinks are thickened, she has lost the ability to talk.

“She just literally retreated into herself and this is what happens when you don’t stimulate people with all sorts of ailments but dementia especially.

“We are their memories.

“I am my mum’s memories and so are my sisters.

“She has just lost her husband last year, my dad.

“This is, as I keep say, it’s a human rights.

“Come on.”

Coronavirus – Tue May 4, 2021
Protestors called for all care home residents to have the right to an essential visitor in the event of another wave of the coronavirus pandemic (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Henshall added: “Somebody needs to step up and it is the Government.

“The Government need to make this a law so there is no grey area.

“To me this is a human rights issue because they are being left on their own for huge amounts of time.

“They are deteriorating, they are lonely, they are isolated and it is a postcode lottery as to where you can get in or not.”

Under the rule changes, residents on visits out must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors, and follow social distancing throughout.

They cannot meet in groups or go indoors, except for the use of toilets, and public transport should be avoided where possible.

It is understood a resident would be able to eat outside at a restaurant or cafe with their care worker or nominated visitor if they agree this with the care home in advance.

Residents will also be able to vote in person in the upcoming local elections without having to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards.