Coronavirus: Call for better care home visiting arrangements

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Families are lobbying MSPs about improving "cruel" care home visiting arrangements.

The Care Home Relatives Scotland group wants more access for relatives in care homes to improve the quality of life for residents.

They say restrictions introduced in the wake of the pandemic are damaging.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said she is "constantly concerned" about the balance between protecting residents from Covid-19 and family visits.

The group held a socially distant protest outside Holyrood where they spoke to MSPs.

Care home residents are allowed to meet people outdoors and have indoor visits from a designated visitor, but a raft of restrictions - such as the home being Covid-free for 28 days - are in place.

Cathie Russell, of the campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland, told Good Morning Scotland she had seen a "huge decline" in her own mother's cognitive abilities since visiting had been restricted.

She said: "She is in a good home and very well cared for physically but people need their families.

"These people have basically been imprisoned since March and their mental health is declining.

"They are completely bewildered, they haven't seen relatives for months and they are having to sit miles away from them when they do."

Mrs Russell said one of the group's elderly mothers had described the current care home visiting arrangements as "cruelty of the worst kind".

Image caption,
Cathie Russell holding a picture of her mum Rose, 88, who lives in a Glasgow care home

Figures show that in the seven days up to 6 September there was not a a single confirmed positive case of coronavirus in all of Scotland's care homes.

However, overall death rates from the virus show there were more deaths as a result of Covid-19 in Scotland's care homes compared with its hospitals.

The Scottish government conditions for allowing visitors are:

  • Care home needs to have been Covid-free throughout the pandemic
  • If there have been infections, all affected residents need to be fully recovered
  • No residents or staff should have had symptoms in past 28 days
  • Active participation in weekly staff testing

Essential visits - such as those involving end-of-life care - have been permitted throughout the pandemic and would continue.

'Normalise the situation in our care homes'

Care homes are now allowed one designated visitor for residents indoors but campaigners claim this has not become widespread practice.

Image caption,
Campaigners want talks with the Scottish government about the guidance issued to care homes about family visits

Asked about care home visits in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said officials were "looking constantly at what else we can do to normalise the situation in our care homes".

She said: "I am constantly concerned about striking the balance between protecting residents in care homes from the virus and recognising that some of the measures that are taken to do that are harming them and their families, particularly in relation to family contact, residents' cognitive functions and so on.

"The clinical and professional advisory group is looking again at what more we can do as we enter winter to strike a better balance between family and visitor contact for residents, activities for residents and healthcare services for residents, and protecting them from introduction of the virus into their homes."

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