Government urged to better protect care users’ human rights

Parliament’s joint committee on human rights has warned that gaps remain in how vulnerable people are protected in care settings, leaving their human rights at risk of being breached.

In a report published today, the JCHR finds that mechanisms such as Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are often not applied correctly, meaning treatment can be wrongfully withheld or an individual’s liberty infringed. It urges the government to work closely with the Care Quality Commission to ensure that strict oversight is given to how care providers implement safeguards to protect the rights of care recipients.

The slow progress in securing visitation rights to care users is also a concern. It warns that care users’ mental and physical health is at risk from the continued imposition of blanket restrictions. It urges the government to create a legal right that allows care users to nominate individuals to have visiting rights. It also urges the CQC not to be used as a blocker of care recipients from seeing their loved ones.

The committee also finds an imbalance in the protection of human rights in care settings. The Human Rights Act can directly be used to uphold rights for care users where care is provided by public funds. Privately funded care will not have this option. This means that individuals may be protected by different human rights in different care settings. It recommends that the government consults on whether the protections provided by the Human Rights Act should extend to all those who receive care and support from regulated providers.


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The joint committee’s chair, Joanna Cherry MP QC, said today: “Care users are some of the most vulnerable in our society and it is vital that the right mechanisms are in place to ensure that they receive appropriate care, accompanied by safeguards that recognise that, for some, the capacity to make informed decisions may be impaired. A careful balance must be struck between protecting their human rights, and allowing for action to prevent harms.

“We are concerned that too often safeguards are not being applied correctly. Instead, the same measures that should be tailored for each individual, such as the right to visit a loved one or the question about whether someone should be revived, are applied across an entire ward or age group. This is wrong and should never happen.

“We have called on the government to do more to ensure there is a water-tight framework in place to ensure that the treatment of care users is adequate and their human rights respected. The government must also make sure that care providers are actually following applicable guidelines as they should.”

Notices for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation are not to be attempted

DNACPR notices are for individuals who have experienced cardiac arrest. This means that cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be stopped immediately.

Concerns have been raised over the possibility that notices are being applied solely to individuals based on their age and condition without properly consulting them or their families. Other concerns include the possibility that DNACPR notices were incorrectly applied, which could mean that other treatments were withheld.

The report states that Do not attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation should only be used for the purpose of deciding whether an individual will receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation. To ensure the best practice, care users and their family members or representatives should be involved in DNACPR notices. This includes extensive record keeping, monitoring, and review at an organizational level. Notices should not be applied in groups or affected by other treatment decisions.

The committee asks the CQC for assistance in ensuring that care users are at the center of decisions made by organisations involved with the application and oversight of DNACPR orders, so that their human rights are protected.

Visit rights

Some restrictions on visiting rights that were implemented during the pandemic and national lockdowns persist in the care sector, despite government guidance indicating that “there should not normally be any restrictions to visits into or out of the care home”. These restrictions can be harmful for care users and detrimental for their well-being, according to the committee.

The report calls for legislation to allow care users to nominate one or several individuals to provide care and support.

It also recommends that the government legislate to require care providers to notify the CQC of any changes in visiting hours. When monitoring and regulating care homes, it should consider visiting restrictions.

Politics.co.uk reached the department for social and health care for comment.