Indoor care home visits to resume next month

The Scottish Government has announced that routine indoor visiting of care home residents by relatives, friends and carers will be able to resume from next month.

From early March, care providers can support residents to have up to two designated visitors each and one visit a week for each visitor.

The government says meaningful contact should be made easier, now that there's a range of protections in place against coronavirus.

Visitors have to wear face coverings and any PPE requested by the care home.

There will also be a strong encouragement to be tested for Covid-19 on site.

It's expected homes will allow for regular weekly contact as long as certain safety conditions are met, but visiting could still be restricted, for example if there is an outbreak of the virus at a care home.

Nearly 100% of care home residents and 92% of staff have had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Data from the National Records of Scotland shows deaths from Covid-19 in care homes have been reduced by 62% in the last three weeks.

There will be guidelines published this coming Wednesday (24 February) to support care providers to start visits again for up to two designated visitors for each resident.

The government says it's aware that the continued restriction of contact for residents with relatives can contribute to loneliness and isolation and worsening physical and mental health, with the bigger risk now being the continued separation of residents from loved ones.

It also says that work is to continue to gradually increase the frequency and duration of contact.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP 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.”

Cathie Russell from Care Home Relatives Scotland said: "We look forward to working with care home providers, public health and oversight teams to ensure that the new guidance allows residents to enjoy meaningful contact with their closest relatives and friends once more.

"It has been a very difficult year.

"The deepest ties of love are important and we can never thrive without them."

Scottish Care Chief Executive Donald Macaskill said: "The COVID pandemic has presented frontline care home staff and managers with many challenges but undoubtedly the hardest has been keeping residents apart from family and friends. 

"We have now reached a very different place and with a range of COVID-19 protections in place, including vaccination and testing, combined with the use of PPE and IPC, we are at a stage where we can re-introduce safer indoor visiting to Scotland’s care homes.

"This day has been long-awaited and we understand that it will be an emotional time for many. 

"Scottish Care is committed to supporting staff and managers, residents and family, to make sure that these guidelines succeed in their aim of reconnecting individuals.

"We commit to working together to overcome any challenges and difficulties we might face and to support those who may still be anxious and fearful, so that together we can ensure that a painful period of separation can be replaced by greater togetherness."

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