Covid Scotland: Scottish Government urged to protect care home visiting rights over winter

The Scottish Government has been urged to protect visiting rights for relatives of care home residents over winter.

The government has committed to developing legislation to protect these rights, in the so-called “Anne’s Law” proposed by campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland.

But MSPs on Wednesday urged ministers to do more to ensure these rights are upheld before Anne’s Law is introduced.

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Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie told MSPs he was “concerned” the rights of families and friends to visit their loved ones may be at risk while this new law is being developed.

Resident Annie Innes, 90, talks with a healthcare worker at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton.

"I support Anne’s law, but I am concerned that we will have to wait for that legislation before the rights of families and friends are secured,” he said, in a question to mental wellbeing and social care minister Kevin Stewart.

"I am sure that the minister will agree that quality of life is incredibly important, so what can he say to reassure families that we will not end up with a repeat of what happened during the pandemic, when families were excluded from seeing their loved ones for months on end?”

Mr Stewart said the right to quality visits with family and friends remains “extremely important”.

The minister said he monitored reports to the Scottish Government of families having difficulty accessing visits to their loved ones, and that no such reports had been made in the past two weeks.

“I remain committed to developing legislation in support of Anne’s law, so that those who live in adult homes have rights that enable them to see and spend time with the people who are important to them,” Mr Stewart said.

"Following the commitment that was made in the Programme for Government to deliver Anne’s law, we have run a public consultation. We will consider the views carefully and publish the responses as soon as possible.”

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Ministers also faced questions over the Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine programmes on Wednesday.

Asked what the Scottish Government is doing to address a backlog in at-home vaccinations in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, Humza Yousaf said the health board was “working through” this backlog as quickly as possible.

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said an 82-year-old constituent had been forced to wait for more than a month for an at-home vaccination appointment because staff were too busy to deliver it, and had eventually put herself at risk by visiting a drop-in centre instead.

Mr Sweeney called on the Scottish Government to commit to ensuring all those waiting for an at-home vaccination appointment received one before Christmas.

Mr Yousaf described a month-long wait as “unacceptably long”, but did not commit to completing at-home vaccinations by Christmas.

"Home appointments do take longer,” he said. “Not only will health boards have to travel to those individuals, there is a 15-minute recovery period thereafter.

"But nonetheless, those people who are housebound often have vulnerabilities, hence why they cannot travel to a vaccination centre."

The health secretary said he had asked all health boards to lay out plans for acceleration of the programme in the lead-up to the new year.

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