Care home bosses must do all they can to provide residents with opportunities to have contact with loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic, a judge has said.
Mr Justice Hayden said the time has come for care homes to position themselves in the “vanguard of developing opportunities”.
The judge, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London and hears cases in the Court of Protection, said bosses must be careful “not to lag behind” when identifying “emerging options”
He said time was not on the side of many care home residents.
Mr Justice Hayden has outlined his thoughts in a preliminary ruling on a case in which a retired academic has asked for orders ensuring that he can have daily “face-to-face” contact with his wife.
Dr John Davies, 60, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, has taken legal action in a bid to ensure that his wife Michelle Davies, 58, gets visits tailored to her needs during the pandemic.
He says Mrs Davies, a former council clerk who had a stroke in late 2018 and has brain damage, has not been treated as an individual.
His ruling covered a number of issues discussed at a recent preliminary hearing.
He has yet to reach any conclusions and is due to reconsider the case later this month.
The judge said that any plan relating to what contact Mrs Davies could have with relatives should reflect the need for ”frequent and vigilant review” and “proactively contemplate” the various alternatives “that may soon emerge”.
“In the court’s assessment, the time has come for care homes to position themselves in the vanguard of the developing opportunities,” said the judge.
“In other words, they should move to the front line and be careful not to lag behind when identifying the emerging options.”
He added: “There are many reasons why this must be the case, not least the fact that, whilst this may not apply to Mrs Davies, for many in the care home system, time is simply not on their side.”
Dr Davies wants Wigan Council and Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group, authorities with responsibility for her care, to carry out “bespoke” risk assessments which will allow people to visit loved ones in care homes, while “maintaining Covid-19 protocols”.
“We fully acknowledge that precautions are needed to combat the spread of Covid-19, especially in care settings,” he said.
“However, the need for this should be evaluated alongside the human rights of people and the need for them to have contact with loved ones.
“The last few months have been incredibly difficult for John and his family. He firmly believes that not having contact with Michelle is having a drastic effect on her recovery and quality of life.
“We welcome this judgment and recent government guidance.
“We now urge care providers to work more closely with families to find suitable and creative solutions based on their needs.”