A relaxation of care home visitation rules for family and loved ones may not be implemented amid fears over testing and resident safety, according to an industry body.

It was announced on Monday that the strict rules facing care homes during the pandemic would be relaxed to allow visits and some physical contact, after months of devastating isolation for care home residents.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed up to six people from two different households would be able to meet a resident outdoors, the length of indoor visits would be increased from 30 minutes to four hours, and hugging and hand holding would be permitted provided full PPE was worn.

However, this morning the chief executive of Scottish Care, Donald Macaskill, said these visits may not be able to go ahead due to concerns over testing and resident safety. 

Coronavirus Scotland: Care home visitors could be tested for Covid-19

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: “I think it’s really important that when we are entering what is a really emotional and difficult discussion around visiting, that we remember the people that we’re focused on and that is the residents.

“We’ve got to balance keeping them safe and introducing more visits into the care home.

“Some organisations may make the decision locally that they, because of their experience with poor testing, do not have the confidence that they are not increasing the risk to the resident.”

It comes after yesterday's announcement that Balhousie Care Group will not be relaxing visiting restrictions in its 25 homes until reassurances are given over testing and other infection control measures.

The firm’s chairman Tony Banks had described the move as “premature and ill thought out”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Care home visiting rules relaxed

Mr Macaskill added that any decisions regarding visitation should fall to the homes themselves, to avoid staff and providers being “set against”.

He said: “We’ve got to get through this winter together, there are going to be very many challenges, but one thing we’re very clear of is we’ve got to get testing sorted and ideally we’ve got to increase it and we’ve got to get family members tested.

“Let’s invest in testing, that includes the sector but also wider society so we can get people connected up again.”

The Scottish Government has said it will take control of the weekly care home testing regime, which is currently carried out at the UK Government’s facilities in Scotland.

Mr Macaskill added that the testing system is "fragile" but welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement that it would take control of weekly care home testing. 

He added: “It’s unfortunate that having worked quite successfully in the summer, just at the time that we’re seeing cases rise in the community, the testing system is still so fragile.”