Indoor care home visits to resume from next month

Two named visitors will be able to visit each resident twice a week from March 1.

Indoor visiting at care homes can resume from early March, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Two named visitors will be able to visit each resident twice a week, although only one person can visit at any one time.

Full guidance on the resumption was published by the Scottish Government on Wednesday.

Deaths in care homes related to coronavirus have reduced by almost 70% over the last four weeks, according to official figures.

Care homes will have to put various safety measures in place before welcoming visitors, including personal protective equipment such as face masks.

A vast majority of care home residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

However, some care providers such as Barchester have questioned the decision, with one saying only vaccinated people should be able to visit.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “That may not sound like much and we obviously hope to get back to even more normality in the weeks to come, but I know for many across the country, even that is a big step back to a more normal way of life.

“It’s not a complete return to normal yet, because there will still be a lot of Covid safety measures in place, face coverings, rigorous hygiene and the availability of testing, but it is nevertheless a very important way forward.”

Barchester said it would ask the government to prioritise regular care home visitors for vaccination.

A spokesperson said: “We think it is important to take a cautious and phased approach, ensuring the one designated visitor per resident or patient is supported in complying with the protocols including the use of PPE and being tested using a Lateral Flow Device before entering a home, and our desire is that they are also vaccinated, if possible.

“In order to support this, we are lobbying with the government for designated visitors to be prioritised for a vaccination.”

Meanwhile, the GMB union has said there needs to be more staff in care homes, a whistleblowing protocol for homes not meeting safety standards and “stringent enforcement” of Covid-19 rules.

Rhea Wolfson, from GMB Scotland’s women’s campaign unit, said: “The balance between compassion and safety is precarious at this moment. Confidence is fragile among care home workers and there can be no room for complacency.

“That’s why ahead of the return to care home visits GMB has asked the Scottish Government to ensure the delivery of three basic provisions.”

She added: “Everyone wants to see families reunited but government and employers owe a great debt to these key workers after the last year, and it’s important their voices are now being heard.”

A 36-page guidance document for visiting outlines a number of criteria which should be met, including adequate stores of personal protective equipment (PPE), staff and visitor testing and “high level coverage” of the coronavirus vaccine.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am grateful to care home providers and Scottish Care, directors of public health, Care Home Relatives Scotland and partners for helping to develop this guidance and for supporting its implementation.

“Essential visits are unaffected by the resumption of indoor meaningful contact and should always be compassionately and generously enabled by care homes when needed.”

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