Judgment Handed Down In Case Of Leigh Man Who Hasn’t Had Physical Contact With Wife Of 37 Years For Eight Months
A leading judge has called on care homes to do more to help families have physical contact with loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Justice Hayden, Vice President of the Court of Protection, has handed down judgment in the case of Dr John Davies, from Leigh, Greater Manchester, who hasn’t had physical contact with his wife for eight months.
John’s wife of 37 years, Michelle, has been in hospital and care homes since suffering a brain aneurysm in December 2018.
Since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March, John, 60, and his son, Kane, 33 haven’t been able to have contact with Michelle, 58, who lacks mental capacity because of her injury.
John, who has been legally appointed to represent his wife’s best interests, believes that restrictions preventing her family from having contact are having a detrimental impact on Michelle’s rehabilitation, are adversely affecting her mental health and breach her human rights.
He instructed Irwin Mitchell’s specialist public law and human rights team to launch a legal challenge in the Court of Protection on John’s behalf.
The family want Wigan Council and Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group - which are responsible for Michelle’s care - to carry out bespoke risk assessments, allowing people to visit their loved ones in care homes, while maintaining Covid-19 protocols.
Following a hearing in the Court of Protection last week Mr Justice Hayden has now ordered the local authority and CCG to explore what options are available to allow John and Michelle to have contact.
Mr Justice Hayden said, while the options need to be based on the couple’s specific needs, care home providers needed to do more to allow visiting, particularly with the potential for Covid-19 vaccines to be soon available.
He said options should not just be based on “what is presently available” but should also consider what may be possible in the future and should be reviewed frequently.
He added: “The time has come for care homes to position themselves in the vanguard of the developing opportunities. In other words, they should move to the front line and be careful not to lag behind when identifying the emerging options.”
Expert Opinion“We fully acknowledge that precautions are needed to combat the spread of Covid-19, especially in care settings. 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.” Mathieu Culverhouse - Partner
After 11 months in hospital, Michelle was discharged to a specialist rehabilitation centre as part of the journey towards her returning to the family home. She moved to a different home at the end of last month. Neither can be named for legal reasons.
Up until 17 March, when the home Michelle was in at the time first stopped visits, John would visit his wife for a minimum of three hours a day.
He and Kane were not allowed to visit Michelle for 16 weeks. During this time, she was diagnosed with and treated for coronavirus, and spent seven weeks confined to her room.
On 6 July visiting restrictions were eased allowing the family two 30-minute visits a week with them being required to maintain a two metre distance and wear face masks.
However, visiting was stopped again at the end of July when restrictions were re-introduced in Greater Manchester.
Since then John and Kane have only been able to have contact via video call and very recently window visits.
John, a retired academic, said: “Michelle has always been a caring and generous person who went out of her way to help others. When she needed our help the most, we couldn’t let her down.
“However, this case isn’t just about Michelle. There are thousands of families across the country in the same situation we find ourselves in.
“We’re not ignorant to the dangers of coronavirus nor are we asking for anything that would put safety at risk. We just want more to be done to balance the needs of keeping people safe with allowing families the chance to spend time together.
“We’re pleased that the judge has seen that there’s a need for more to be done to help families like ours. It’s vital that his comments are acted upon.”
Following last month’s hearing, Wigan Council and Wigan Clinical Commissioning Group agreed to meet with John to try and reach an agreement on new contact arrangements between Michelle and her family.
In November, the Government also issued guidance encouraging care homes to provide ‘safe visiting opportunities’ while national restrictions were in force. This included tailoring visits to the specific needs of residents.
Ministers have also announced more than a million coronavirus tests will be sent to care homes allowing residents to have indoor visits from friends and family by Christmas if visitors test negative for Covid-19.
Find out more about our expertise in supporting families affected by care issues at our specialist protecting your rights section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.