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Care home visits to resume for north-east families

By David Porter

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Routine indoor visiting of care home residents by relatives, friends and carers will be able to resume from early March with care providers supporting residents to have up to two designated visitors each and one visit a week for each visitor.

With a wide range of protections now in place against Covid-19 for care home residents, it is has been decided meaningful contact should be made easier for the wellbeing of residents and their loved ones.

The most recent of these protections is the Covid vaccine with more than 99.9 per cent of older care home residents and 92 per cent of staff now vaccinated with first dose.

Additionally, the national picture of coronavirus outbreaks in care homes is improving.

NRS data shows that deaths from coronavirus in care homes have fallen by 62 per cent in the last three weeks and the balance is now in favour of allowing contact to resume.

Guidelines to be published on Wednesday, February 24 will support care providers to resume visiting for up to two designated visitors per resident.

Every time someone goes into a care home it is a Covid risk but the Scottish Governement are acutely conscious that continued restriction of contact for residents with relatives can contribute to loneliness and isolation and worsening physical and mental health.

With the range of protections in place against Covid, the bigger risk now is the continued separation of residents from loved ones.

Visitors will need to wear face coverings and any PPE requested by the care home, and are strongly encouraged to take a Covid test on-site.

While visiting may sometimes still be restricted, for example in the event of an outbreak at a care home, the expectation will now be that homes will facilitate regular weekly contact as long as certain safety conditions are met.

Work will continue to gradually increase the frequency and duration of contact.

Health Secretary Jeame Freeman welcomed the move.
Health Secretary Jeame Freeman welcomed the move.

Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman 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 of 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.”

Initially care homes will be asked to introduce to meaningful contact by supporting up to two designated visitors per resident, once per week.

Essential visits – in cases where there is distress, urgency or a need to prevent decline - should continue to be supported by all care homes compassionately and generously under this guidance.

Initially, children under the age of 16 should only be classed as a designated visitor for indoor contact under exceptional circumstance, however outdoor visits for children under 16 are still encouraged.

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