Suffolk actress Ruthie Henshall leads care home protest to Downing Street
- Credit: PA
Suffolk West End star Ruthie Henshall is leading a campaign calling for visiting restrictions in care homes to be eased to prevent residents "dying of loneliness".
Ms Henshall was one of dozens of campaigners from the Rights for Residents group who gathered outside Downing Street in London on Thursday calling for an end to the isolation of residents.
She said some care homes are "making up their own rules" instead of following the government's visiting guidance.
The government said it is doing "everything we can" to help providers facilitate safe visits.
Ms Henshall's mother Gloria, who was married to former EADT news editor and Ipswich Star editor David Henshall, died in a care home in May this year, aged 88.
Mr Henshall died in April 2020 at the age of 90 and a memorial for the couple is set to be held next month.
Cats actress Ms Henshall has become an ambassador for Rights for Residents and is campaigning for "Gloria's Law" - which would protect the right of a caregiver to continue visiting loved ones even if the care home is in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak - to be introduced.
Current guidance says there is no limit on the number of named visitors a resident can receive, nor how many visits they can receive each day.
All care homes without coronavirus cases should seek to enable indoor visits, and each resident should be able to nominate a loved one to become an essential caregiver, who can visit even if the home is in outbreak.
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Ms Henshall was part of a group of protestors that delivered a petition with more than 267,000 signatures to Number 10 on Thursday.
After helping deliver the petition, she said: "There are many lessons to be learned from this pandemic, but most people here were absolutely shocked that they could actually be banned from seeing their loved one.
"They think it's wrong, I think it's wrong, so we have to keep pushing for that legal change to happen.
"It is still happening in care homes, that people are getting half-hour visits every couple of weeks, they're still dying of loneliness and isolation and I cannot have this."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We are doing everything we can to support care providers in facilitating visits safely between residents and their friends and family.
"This includes ensuring all residents can nominate an essential care giver, removing limits on named or daily visitors and reducing the period of time visit restrictions apply following an outbreak across the home.
"Our message is clear: all care home residents should be supported to get the care and companionship they need from visitors as this is essential to their health and wellbeing."