The husband of a woman in a care home who is at the centre of litigation says her progress has been hindered by visiting restrictions imposed during the coronavirus crisis.
John Davies, 60, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, has begun a legal fight in a bid to ensure that his wife Michelle, 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.
Dr Davies says she should not be subject to a blanket visiting policy and wants a judge to rule that she can have daily “face-to-face contact” with him and their son Kane, 33.
Lawyers say the case could affect thousands of people.
Dr Davies, a retired academic, on Tuesday told of his heartbreak at not being allowed to have “any meaningful contact” with his wife of 37 years for the past eight months.
“We have been together for 40 years and it’s been hard enough living apart while she has been in hospital and care homes, but not being allowed to have any meaningful contact with Michelle for the last eight months has been heartbreaking,” he said.
“The involvement of family and friends is critical to individuals who are undergoing neuro-rehabilitation and this has been denied to Michelle for an extended period.”
He added: “I believe that this has hindered her progress significantly and has adversely affected her mental health.”
Dr Davies said video calls were a poor substitute for “being together”.
He said he was aware of the danger coronavirus posed but wanted a “common sense approach”.
“There has been a failure to treat Michelle as an individual over the last eight months,” he said.
“Instead she has been dealt with as one member of a huge amorphous group of people living in care homes.
“These people have names, families and lives.
“This one is called Michelle Davies.”
Mr Justice Hayden oversaw a preliminary virtual hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who do not have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves are considered, on Monday.
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”.
Solicitor Mathieu Culverhouse, who represents the family and is based at law firm Irwin Mitchell, added: “While it’s only right that measures are in place that reduce the spread of Covid-19, particularly among some of society’s most vulnerable, these need to be balanced with ensuring the human rights of people are upheld and families can interact.”
He went on: “Access to visiting loved ones in care homes is an important and incredibly emotive issue. Each case will turn on its own facts and will require families and agencies to work together to find a sensible solution.
“John would rather not be in this position but felt he had little choice but to bring this legal challenge after many months of frustration.
“We welcome the indication from the council and clinical commissioning group that they will work with John to come to an agreement.”
– Judges normally bar people at the centre of Court of Protection cases from being identified in media reports to protect their right to respect for private life. But Mr Justice Hayden has ruled Mrs Davies can be named. Mr Davies told him his wife would have wanted to be named if she was able to make the decision. He said she would want to help as many people as possible and would have realised that the case would generate more publicity if she was named. The judge said the care home where Mrs Davies was living could not be named.