Covid Scotland: Updated care home guidance encourages more visitors and allows them to test at home
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The changes encourage more homes to further relax restrictions as mainland Scotland enters level zero on Monday.
But relatives also called on the Scottish Government to further strengthen the guidance and work to reduce discrepancies across care homes.
Updated measures include allowing more than two “designated visitors” access to the care home, as well as allowing visitors to take lateral flow tests before visiting at home, rather than at the care home.
This is a vital step as it allows for more visiting, relatives said, as in some care homes visitors have been limited by lack of staff at the venue available to arrange testing.
The guidance also says visitors should be allowed to take off their face masks to have food or drink with their relative during their visit, and allows children to visit indoors.
Masks do not have to be worn during outdoor visits.
It is one of a series of updates to the “Open with Care” guidance published by the Scottish Government in February.
These measures are already taken by some care homes, but not all. Campaign group Care Home Relatives hopes the update will reduce the discrepancies across homes.
A representative of the group called for the Scottish Government to be even stronger in its advice, as the current guidance leaves some decisions up to the discretion of care home managers who may be unwilling to take the risk.
"When they brought out the guidance in February, they said that it should be a minimum of two designated visitors, each getting one visit a week … they said they would expect homes to then start relaxing this and opening up to more visitors, but it hasn't been happening,” said member of the group Sheila Hall, whose mother lives in a care home.
"The homes have just stuck with that minimum, two designated visitors, one visit each a week, because that’s what it says in the guidance, and they haven't had the confidence to expand on that for whatever reason.”
Ms Hall said she hoped to see further relaxation of guidance during the summer.
A spokesperson said the Scottish Government would continue to monitor the situation and move towards more “normalised” visiting.
They said: "We recognise how important it is for residents and loved ones to connect and remain committed to supporting further improvements to the excellent progress so far.
"We know that over 90 per cent of reporting adult care homes are already supporting indoor contact between residents and loved ones, and that increased numbers are supporting daily visits and multiple visitors.
“New advice published [on Thursday] outlines further recommended relaxations from level zero, alongside updated practical advice. We encourage all care homes to continue to increase opportunities for good quality and meaningful contact, in line with Open with Care guidance.
"We will continue to monitor the situation and to work with the sector to support a return towards more normalised visiting."