Guidelines on the easing of care home restrictions have been issued by the Scottish government.
The updated guidance includes extending indoor visits from 30 minutes to up to four hours and extending outdoor visits to include up to six visitors from no more than two households, including children and young people, for up to one hour per visit.
The new guidance also supports increased personal interaction, including hugs or hand holding, as long as strict PPE and infection prevention control measures are met.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman (pictured) said: “We know how difficult visiting restrictions have been, and it is only natural after six months of lockdown restrictions, that care home residents and their loved ones will want to see and interact with each other as much as possible.
“The Scottish Government has been actively working with Scottish Care and other care home stakeholders on a staged approach to re-introduce visiting in care homes in as safe a way as possible, while COVID-19 remains in Scotland.
“This latest guidance has been developed with input from family members, carers, and clinicians to offer greater flexibility in visiting arrangements, and indoor visiting in particular, as winter approaches. We will continue to actively consider how we can best support visiting in care homes, and protect those who are at most risk from this virus.”
Reacting to the change in guidance, Tony Banks, chairman of Balhousie Care Group, said: “While we welcome improved and enhanced care home visits, and fully appreciate the wellness benefits more visits would bring our residents, yesterday’s announcement was premature and ill-thought-out. Why, in the middle of another sharp spike in community transmissions of COVID-19, would we relax our rules and put our residents and staff at possible risk of infection?
“Scotland’s care homes went through hell in the spring during the first COVID-19 spike. I never want to put our residents, families or staff through that again. We need assurances that what happened then will not be repeated. That includes efficient, accurate testing of our staff, with timely results, as well as testing of visitors before entry to our homes.”
Tony welcomed the Scottish government’s commitment to transfer care home staff testing to the NHS after frustrations that test results were taking up to seven days.
He added: “We need to be confident that we are doing all we can to stem possible transmission of the virus. Opening our doors wider only widens the risks. And for us, right now, that is an unacceptable risk.”