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Lack of care home visiting flexibility causing frustration, says Orkney MSP

Calls have been made for an expansion to care home visiting in areas where the prevalence of COVID-19 is low.

Frustration in the lack of flexibility in granting wider access to care home visits in Orkney, where prevalence of COVID-19 continues to be significantly lower than across the mainland of Scotland has led Liam McArthur to call on the First Minister to consider expanding access.

Mr McArthur’s call came in response to the First Minister’s weekly coronavirus update to parliament, where he highlighted the case of a constituent who had contacted him concerned about the wellbeing of their parents, unable to see their grandchildren under the current rules around care home visits.

The constituent explained that the situation has left their parents feeling “imprisoned”.

Orkney’s MSP pressed the First Minister for details on when the rules might be eased, particularly in communities with a lower risk of transmission of the virus.

In response, the First Minister said that nobody wants to keep families apart for any longer than is necessary and that she understands the distress and anxiety caused by the strict rules.

She went on to say that additional flexibility around visitation is allowed in exceptional circumstances but stopped short of putting a timeframe on further relaxation of the general rules.

Following the exchange, Mr McArthur said: “This pandemic has caused months of distress and worry to care home residents and their families and the ongoing priority must, of course, be protecting residents, visitors and staff.

“However, there is little doubt that the restrictions on visits have placed a serious strain on people’s health and wellbeing. After a year of no and then limited access to family members, this pandemic has taken a heavy emotional toll on many of the most vulnerable in our community.

“Care home staff are doing their best to keep residents and visitors safe and apply the rules as fairly as possible.  Nevertheless, given the low prevalence of COVID in Orkney, there is understandable frustration that more flexibility is not allowed by the Scottish Government.

“I recognise the balances that need to be struck but was disappointed that the First Minister was unable to give any clarity to constituents in Orkney about when rules on care home visits might be further relaxed. I hope that her statement next week will offer more hope for those desperate to meet up with family members.”