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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-35500
Asked by: George Adam, Paisley, Scottish National Party
Date lodged: 24 February 2021

Question

To ask the Scottish Government when care home residents  will be able to see close friends and family.

Current status: Answered by Jeane Freeman on 24 February 2021


Answer

We understand the distress that this pandemic has caused for people living in care homes and their loved ones. 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 residents, as well as for care home staff and colleagues.

With a wide range of protections now in place that must be maintained and rigorously sustained, we can now mitigate the risk to enable safe, indoor visiting from early March so that everyone living in adult care homes, no matter their age, health, or otherwise, can have meaningful contact with their families and loves ones.

The most recent of these protections is the COVID vaccine with more than 99.9% of older care home residents and 95% of staff in those homes now vaccinated with first dose. Vaccination sits alongside other protections including infection prevention and control measures; testing policy prior to hospital discharge; testing policy for community admission; PPE (adequate, available and proper used) testing (all staff, others, designated visitors). 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% in the last three weeks. These protections combined with an improving picture means that we are now able to support meaningful indoor visiting.

Today I have published updated care home visiting guidance ‘Open with Care’ to support the return of indoor visiting and ensure that there is meaningful contact between care home residents and their loved ones. The revised guidance recommends that all care homes should support residents to have up to two designated visitors each with one visit a week for each visitor from early March. There will be some care homes that need to put in additional work to satisfy themselves they meet all the safety measures - in these cases direct support will be provided by national and local partners.

Care homes can access support from local oversight teams who have provided ongoing advice and support throughout the pandemic. The Scottish Government is providing funding for reasonable additional costs incurred as a result of the pandemic, including staffing and non-staffing costs associated with facilitating safe visiting in care homes. This is in line with the financial support for social care providers guidance, published in December 2020.

Scottish Government also provides funding and support for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) (extended to June 2021 and under ongoing review) as well as care home testing.

The guidance has been developed by the Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Medical Officer’s Clinical and Professional Advisory group for Social Care in consultation with relatives of care home residents, care home providers, Scottish Care, Directors of Public Health, Health and Social Care Partnerships and a range of other partners.

Everyone, including visitors, has a responsibility to ensure that visits take place as safely as possible by continuing to follow safety advice. 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. We will then work to continue to gradually increase the frequency and duration of contact. 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.

This is a welcome step forward for residents and their loved ones as well as for care home staff.

The Scottish Government will continue working with care home providers, partners and relatives to support implementation of the guidance. National and local monitoring will take place from the point the guidance is published and support will be in place for providers to help them open with care.

The updated guidance can be found here:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-adult-care-homes-visiting-guidance/ .

We also appreciate that for almost everyone, reconnecting will be an emotional time. Dedicated advice for care home residents, their friends and relatives will be available on www.nhsinform.scot/openwithcare from today. This summarises the new guidance and the safeguards in place to have meaningful contact as safely as possible.