Families reunited with relatives in care.

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire has welcomed news that routine indoor visiting of care home residents by relatives, friends and carers will be able to resume from early March, with care providers supporting residents to have up to two designated visitors each and one visit a week for each visitor.

With a wide range of protections now in place against COVID-19 for care home residents, it is has been decided meaningful contact should be made easier for the wellbeing of residents and their loved ones. The most recent of these protections is the COVID vaccine with more than 99.9% of older care home residents and 92% of staff now vaccinated with first dose. Additionally, the national picture of coronavirus outbreaks in care homes is improving.  NRS data shows that deaths from coronavirus in care homes have fallen by 62% in the last three weeks and the balance is now in favour of allowing contact to resume.

The Scottish Government will publish guidance on Wednesday 24 February, that will support care providers, to resume visiting for up to two designated visitors per resident. 

Every time someone goes into a care home it is a COVID risk. However, the Scottish Government recognise, that continued restriction of contact for residents with relatives, can contribute to loneliness and isolation and worsening physical and mental health. With the range of protections in place against COVID, the bigger risk now is the continued separation of residents from loved ones.

Visitors will need to wear face coverings and any PPE requested by the care home, and are strongly encouraged to take a COVID test on-site. While visiting may sometimes still be restricted, for example in the event of an outbreak at a care home, the expectation will now be that homes will facilitate regular weekly contact as long as certain safety conditions are met. We will then work to continue to gradually increase the frequency and duration of contact.

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire commented:

“The terrible situation of no or limited contact for families and their loved ones in care homes has been one of the most heartbreaking things during the last year. 

In the Scottish Parliament, on a number of occasions, I have raised the concerns of families, in my constituency, who have been affected by care home restrictions.  

For care home residents and their friends and families, I am really glad to see this change.”

Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman said: “The decisions regarding restrictions on visiting for care home residents have been some of the most difficult we have faced and I have the greatest sympathy for those who have been unable to see relatives and loved ones in person for so long.

“Care home staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support continued contact between residents and their loved ones but these restrictions have been hugely challenging for them, as well as for care home staff and colleagues.

“We deeply regret the deaths and other harm caused by coronavirus in our care homes, but we also recognise the harm caused to the wellbeing of residents and families as a result of an inability to see those they love.

“We must remain vigilant about the risks but with multiple layers of protection now in place the balance is in favour of allowing visits.  Everyone, including visitors, has a responsibility to ensure that visits take place as safely as possible by continuing to follow safety advice.

“The additional protection in place includes infection prevention and control measures (IPC); personal protective equipment (PPE) in care homes and testing of staff and visiting professionals to care homes, which have developed processes and protocols for safer indoor visiting to take place.

“The guidance we are publishing sets out an expectation that providers will put in place arrangements to enable regular visits to resume from early March and from the discussions I have had with providers, I now expect all care homes to have embraced this guidance by mid-March.”