Care home visitors: striking the balance between rights and responsibilities

With many care homes starting to think about opening up to visitors again, it is important that operators strike the right balance between their legal responsibilities to safeguard their staff and residents and the rights of their residents and families.

Each home will present a different set of practical challenges for operators to overcome and with infection control and government guidance changing frequently, a flexible approach will be required to ensure that policies are up-to-date and work in practice.

Can visitors sign a disclaimer?

We are often asked whether visitors can be asked to sign a disclaimer. The legal position is that operators cannot exclude or disclaim liability for death or personal injury (which would potentially include contracting Covid-19) where they have been negligent. To lessen the risk of a negligence claim, we recommend that homes set out a clear visiting policy and obtain written consent of each visitor to the policy.

What should a policy cover?

Policies are likely to differ depending on the space and layout of each home but may cover the following:

•  what types of visits will be offered and what restrictions will apply to each
•  restrictions on who can and can’t visit (for example those who have recently returned from abroad or who are exhibiting symptoms)
  how many people can visit and for how long
  how visitors may travel to the home
  what they may bring with them
  what protective and practical measures the home will put in place
  when the home can refuse or suspend visits
  how the Mental Capacity will be complied with
  how personal data will be used
  what happens if the policy changes.

Consider alternative solutions

Care providers have been exploring alternative solutions to allow safe visits. Read the article from this month’s edition of our Ahead of the Curve to find out about an ingenious idea developed by care provider Oakland Care.

If you would like help with a visitors policy, please get in touch with Hazel Phillips, partner and co-head of Royds With Kings Health & Social Care team.

01225 730166