Coronavirus in Scotland: New guidance on care home visiting to be published 'imminently'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said new guidance on family member visits to care homes is to be published “imminently”.

The First Minister told MSPs on Wednesday that in light of current rates of Covid-19 and high update of vaccination in care homes, guidance may suggest a “greater normality” in visits from family members to care homes.

It comes after a petition discussed at the Scottish Parliament public petitions committee on Wednesday calling for one designated visitor to be granted care home visits was kept open.

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The petition, which has gained over 90,000 signatures, was submitted by Natasha Hamilton, a member of the campaign group Care Home Relatives.

Lorraine Paterson

The group has launched a renewed campaign for greater visiting allowances this week entitled ‘Breaking our hearts – it’s time to let us in’.

Asked about visiting rules by Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie, Ms Sturgeon said: “In light of the current rates and levels of the virus, and in light of the extremely high uptake of vaccination in care homes, [it] is possible that visitors can have much greater normality in their interactions with care home residents.”

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The First Minister said that of all the difficulties brought by Covid-19, the “cruel” separation of family members and relatives in care homes had been one of the worst.

“We want to get to a much better position as quickly as possible, but we must do that carefully and we must do that in a way that prioritises the safety of those residents and everybody who works in a care home environment,” she said.

The petitions committee decided to keep the petition open and write to health secretary Jeane Freeman and national clinical director Jason Leitch to emphasise a need for “urgency” in responding to campaigners.

Convener Johan Lamont highlighted the “gap” between Scottish Government guidance on care home visiting and the day-to-day reality for family members.

Members of the Care Home Relatives Campaign group thanked the committee for keeping the petition open. They said: “If the guidelines had been working, then there would be no need for it. This can never be allowed to happen again. We are extremely grateful to everyone who lodged their support.”

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