On 23 May 2022, a cross party coalition of over 60 MPs wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid. The purpose of the joint letter is to urge politicians to learn from the mistakes made in the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to strict isolation measures which many people said were detrimental to service users in care homes. The MPs in this collective letter, have called on the Secretary of State to create a legal right which, “…guarantees contact with a ‘care supporter’ – a relative or friend to provide support when it is required.” This will enable relatives and friends to provide support and help to those in hospitals, care homes or GP surgeries.
Why the demand for a legal right exists?
The motivation for this letter, stems from the ‘Guaranteeing the Right to Maintain Contact’ event which took place in Parliament on 9 March 2022. During this event, MPs heard experiences from people who were separated from their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tracey Crouch MP, who coordinated the letter, said:
“Listening to the harrowing experiences of people separated from their family in health and care services during the pandemic laid out powerfully why a right to a ‘care supporter’ is urgently needed. Never again should the vital support of relatives or friends be denied. Any one of us could need this support, which must be recognised in law as fundamental to good care.”
Helen Wildbore, Director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said:
“MPs have sent a message loud and clear to the government: never again should those who need support be cut off from the people they need most. The support of partners, parents, sons and daughters is not an optional extra, but vital to dignified care.”
The Government is set to respond to this letter in the coming days.