Coronavirus in Scotland: Families of care home residents 'won't be celebrating' visiting rule change until it becomes law

Campaigners and families of Scotland’s care home residents have said they “won’t be celebrating” the change to care home visiting guidance until it is enshrined in law.

The care home relatives group protested outside the Scottish Parliament in September calling for changes to visiting rules.The group says families have still not all been assured they will be able to see loved ones.
The care home relatives group protested outside the Scottish Parliament in September calling for changes to visiting rules.The group says families have still not all been assured they will be able to see loved ones.

As per new guidance announced by the Scottish Government last week, limited visits to care homes resumed on Monday.

But campaigners have warned that while the new rules are welcome, they are not the end of the road.

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The campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland, made up of family members of those in care homes, continues to call for legislation to allow one designated visitor regular access to their family member.

The proposed ‘Anne’s Law’ aims to combat discrepancies between the attitudes of different care homes, and the risk that some may not follow the guidance, or may introduce their own limitations.

It comes after Barchester, a major care home operator, announced following the new guidance that visitors would only be allowed after they had received a Covid-19 vaccine. This limitation has since been withdrawn.

While Monday saw relatives of care home residents across the country able to resume visiting of their loved ones, many care homes have not yet introduced the new measures.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she expects all care homes to allow visiting by mid-March.

One relative of a care home resident, who wished to remain anonymous in case of negative reaction from the home, said she found it “very frustrating and upsetting” that her 83-year-old mother’s care home told her visiting cannot yet be allowed due to outstanding paperwork.

"I'm hoping they get something sorted quickly,” she said.

"It's not as if they weren't expecting families to be allowed in so why haven't they prepared for this happening? We just want proper access to my mum before it's too late.”

Alison Leitch, of Care Home Relatives Scotland, believes the Scottish Government has acted better than governments in other nations, and that the group feels grateful for the engagement it has had from the government.

But she added that there is still work to be done, and she and other campaigners are “not getting excited” about the new guidance yet.

"There can still be these barriers, and until that’s dealt with, we won’t be celebrating,” she said.

“We put our name to [the letter] in support of other campaign groups in the other nations, but ultimately it is pushing for the need for legislation.”

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"We’ve already seen that Barchester initially said they wanted everybody to be vaccinated, and then they did a u-turn after quite a bit of pressure.

“There are 815 care homes in Scotland, there are going to be barriers put up all the time, and it just brings it all back to the fact that unless there’s legislation, these care homes can do what they want.”

Asked about the appeal for legislation in the coronavirus briefing on Monday, Ms Freeman said while she “understood” the calls for a new law, in her view the situation “doesn’t work quite like that”.

"I would rather work hard to bring providers with me to this because they are confident that they can, that the risk is manageable, that they have everything in place to protect residents from the risk of coronavirus than to enter into some compulsion.”

But she added: “Even so, that option of course remains.”

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