The owner of a Glasgow care home has said it is ‘nonsense’ to ban relatives from visits given our increased understanding of the virus and how it spreads.
Brian Murray, who runs Abbey Court Care Home in Easterhouse, said he agreed with calls made by one the UK’s biggest providers to lift visiting restrictions after it recorded one Covid death in the last fortnight.
Four Seasons Healthcare, which operates 165 care homes, said close to 4,000 residents were living under strict lockdowns because of outbreaks, but the Omicron variant was proving so mild in a well-vaccinated population that limits on seeing family and friends were in “total imbalance” with the risk.
Of 132 deaths among the chain’s residents in the last two weeks, just one was attributed to Covid, but because two or more staff or residents have tested positive in 86 homes, indoor visits are now largely banned.
Jeremy Richardson, the chief executive of the UK’s third largest care home provider, said the ban was depriving people of their right to visitors, which he said was an “absolute outrage.”
Mr Murray said: “He is right, we have a lot more knowledge and understanding of the virus now and, coupling that with our knowledge and experience of dealing with outbreaks, it is nonsense to ban visiting yet again.
“There’s no reason it cant be allowed as long as its managed properly and that may mean restricting visits and re-imposing some of the measures we used we when first re-opened.
“It also seems a bit mixed, we have two staff who had a positive LFD result and Public Health told us to take no action unless the PCR’s came back positive, they did and we have ordered mass testing for the residents but still have not been instructed to lock down.
“It may be because they trust our judgement now and are happy to accept the measures we impose; we restricted visiting to essential only but anyone can have an essential visit it’S not restricted to one named visitor.”
The ban on access to relatives as homes battled to contain outbreaks has been one of the most contentious and devastating aspects of the pandemic.
It left many unable to comfort loved ones before they died and led to a campaign for Anne’s Law, set to be introduced by the Scottish Government, which will enshrine their visiting rights in law.
Abbey Court only, briefly stopped relatives’ visits last year, locking down two weeks before most others did in the first week of March.
“A visitor can easily be allowed into the home with safeguards in place,” says Mr Murray.
“It totally infuriates me – we have never refused entry to anyone.”
Donald MacAskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, said he remains concerned about a lack of consistency on visiting.
He said: “We now have very clear guidance that a named visitor should be allowed in during a controlled outbreak.
“However, what I am hearing from some providers and managers, is that Public Health teams and Incident Management teams in some parts of Scotland are declaring that visits should not be taking place partly because of their interpretation of what a ‘managed’ or ‘controlled’ outbreak is.”
Ex-Labour MSP Neil Findlay said his mother’s care home had been closed to visits for the last four weeks, which he said had been “awful” for residents and staff.
If we could access care homes we would but my mum’s home has been closed to any visits for the last three or four weeks due to Covid – it is awful for residents and staff https://t.co/yAnBH7fFLb
— Neil Findlay (@Neilsocialist) January 5, 2022
A spokeswoman for care home provider Barchester said: “We are following guidance from the Government and local health protection teams regarding visiting in Scotland, and continue to have opportunities to connect residents with their loved ones safely.
“In terms of staffing, our teams are working together to cover shifts as needed and going the extra mile to ensure the safety and well-being of residents.”
It comes amid a warning that care homes are facing a ‘critical situation’ due to record numbers of absences due to staff isolating or testing positive for Covid.
Campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland has suggested relatives could help ease pressure on workers by volunteering to help with meals or serving hot drinks and Mr Murray said he agreed.
He said: “I raised that question many times in the very first month of lockdown when, after banning relatives from coming in to the homes, the Government were calling for volunteers to fill staff vacancy slots.
“To me it was a no-brainer to ask relatives if they could register as volunteers but I never once got a straight answer.”