Campaign to change rules on Scottish care home visits gains MSP backing and 90,000 signatures

A campaign calling for a change in the rules around care home visits in Scotland has gained the backing of several MSPs, with over 90,000 signatures to a public petition.

The “Our Hearts are Breaking” campaign has been launched by Care Home Relatives Scotland – a group of people from around the country with relatives living in care homes.

The push aims to further promote a petition started by a member of the group in August, calling on the Scottish Government to change care home visiting guidance to allow one designated visitor significant visiting access, with PPE and testing measures in place.

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The petition, which has gained over 90,000 signatures, was kept open after a discussion by the Holyrood petitions committee in November and will be discussed again on Wednesday.

Judith Coulson campaigning to see her mother, who is in a care home, for longer.

In advance of the discussion, campaign members have called on MSPs from all parties to support the campaign.

“It’s good that the petition has got momentum, but we need to remember what it’s all about – people who have been locked up in a care home for coming up to a year, and not had any real social interaction with family members or friends,” said Natasha Hamilton, 35, who created the petition in August.

“I think it's quite sad that we're coming up to the year mark and there’s an overall sense of no movement with how we can allow care home residents to be connected with their families again.”

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Hazel Caldwell and her mother Margaret

The proposed change has been nicknamed Anne’s law, in honour of Ms Hamilton’s mother.

Anne, 63, has dementia, and Ms Hamilton’s petition highlights the fears of some family members they may not be able to see their relatives again before they forget who they are.

While Ms Hamilton’s father is currently able to see his wife for essential care-related visits, Ms Hamilton is calling for an easier and more substantial arrangement.

"You shouldn’t feel like you’re begging to see your wife, like you’re begging to see your mum,” said Ms Hamilton.

Natasha Hamilton with her mother Anne

The campaign has been backed by several MSPs.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “Family members and other caregivers have been locked out of care homes and there’s a hidden catastrophe behind the locked doors. People have died alone and it needs to stop,”

Liberal Democrats’ Alex Cole-Hamilton called the campaign “incredibly important”.

"Vulnerable people have been starved of holding hands or hugging their relatives for the best part of a year,” he said. “This vital contact can’t wait a moment longer.

Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “Our care homes have borne the brunt of this pandemic and it remains a heart-breaking situation for families who aren’t able to see their loved ones.

“This campaign is extremely worthy and I am proud to be supporting the tireless efforts of families to see their relatives in a safe way.”

Asked about the possibility of care home visiting returning during her Covid-19 daily briefing on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon said health secretary Jeane Freeman was looking at the issue “on an ongoing basis”.

“It's important that we don't do that in a way that risks older people in care homes any more than we want to do,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon said vaccines would help “pave the way” for greater visiting allowances, but that more information was needed about its effects on transmission.

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