Covid Scotland: Pressure mounts for 'unfair' care home 14-day isolation period to be cut

The Scottish Government is facing increasing pressure to reduce the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for care home residents.

By Elsa Maishman
Sunday, 16th January 2022, 4:55 am

Currently residents who leave the home for a visit to hospital are required to self-isolate for 14 days on their return, regardless of whether or not they test negative for Covid-19.

During this period they are allowed a named visitor.

Self-isolation requirements for members of the general population in Scotland have recently been cut to seven days for someone who has the virus, but then tests negative on days six and seven.

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

Relatives of people in care homes have branded the increasing discrepancy “unfair”, and warned lengthy solitary isolation is damaging the wellbeing of residents.

Under increasing pressure from relatives and other representative bodies, social care minister Kevin Stewart has indicated the position may soon change.

Sheila Hall, a member of the campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland, whose mother Alice was forced to self-isolate before Christmas after a hospital visit not related to Covid, said the restriction was “unfair” when compared to the rest of the population.

“It just seems so ludicrous when you compare it with what's happening with staff now,” she said.

“They can have Covid and then be back to work after seven days. It’s so unfair – and that’s someone who’s had Covid.

“These residents, they’ve not had Covid, they’ve had two negative PCRs, and yet they're still stuck in their room for two weeks."

Ms Hall added: “It's the isolation of the residents, the harm that isolation is doing.

“We say 14 days, but that’s two weeks sitting looking at a wall. It just cannot be right.”

Asked if a cut to self-isolation may worry residents and relatives following concerns over hospital patients being transferred to care homes without Covid testing in the early months of the pandemic, Ms Hall said the situation had changed.

“The huge difference from the beginning is that they're all triple vaccinated,” she said. “We understand Covid, we understand PPE.

“I think there were terrible mistakes made at the beginning, but I think we've learnt from that, and it shouldn't happen again.

“We can test now, so that’s a huge difference.”

Mr Stewart said the Scottish Government would soon update its position.

He said: “Our overriding priority throughout the pandemic has been to safeguard and protect staff and residents of care homes.

“The measures that are currently in place ensure loved ones can have meaningful contact with residents while balancing the Covid-19 risk and the need to keep people safe in line with clinical and public health advice especially with the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“The Scottish Government, given the recent changes to isolation announced by the First Minister, had already commissioned public health experts to review the guidelines that are currently in place for residents and we hope to have an updated position imminently.”

Mr Stewart added: “We have taken exceptional measures in every area of government to deal with the challenges of Covid-19 and that is particularly clear in our support for local services. This includes the £300 million of new winter investment for health and care announced in October, to maximise the capacity of the NHS and social care system this winter.”

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