A MAJOR care home provider has said it "strongly disagrees" with new guidelines that could see elderly people pressured to wear masks in communal areas.

The Four Seasons Healthcare Group said it would be urging the Scottish Government to reconsider the "unfair" and restrictive measure.

However, a spokesperson for the group said it had adhered to the guidance of authorities throughout the pandemic and would "have no choice" but to follow the direction.

Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, said the measures had caused considerable anger amongst care home staff and managers as well as relatives and carers.

The Scottish Government insists the guidance has not changed since October and masks are only required  where residents can tolerate their use when receiving direct, close personal care and in communal areas when it is not possible to be socially distant. It said the updated guidelines aimed to clarify that masks are nor required in the resident's own living space. 

However, Mr Macaskill said this was wrong because all areas of a care home should be considered a resident's living space.

He said residents should not be required to socially distance from one another "in their own home".

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He said: "Given the reality of double vaccination, testing of staff on a three-time a week basis, the lack of evidence of outbreaks as a result of communal living and mixing, we should not be requiring social distancing with all the harms that results from such actions within a care home and in what is someone’s home."

He said residents should only be expected to wear masks if they choose to themselves or in the event of the home experiencing an outbreak.

Age Scotland has described the new guidance as "detached and ill-thought out".

Cathy Russell, of the campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland, said there was a feeling that the guidelines had been toughened up.

She said: "The emphasis of the guidance has changed, it feels as if it has been toughened and no one wore masks in care homes before and this is now saying they should.

"To do this now when every single resident has been vaccinated, just doesn't make any sense.

READ MORE: Warning over spiralling dementia diagnosis delays and support vaccum 

"I've never seen a single resident wearing a face mask in my mother's home.

""It's simply not enforceable anyway but we don't want a situation where care workers feel that in order to pass an inspections they've got to run about trying to put masks on everyone."

"Around 84% of residents have dementia and I think any relative who is concerned about this should get a note into that care home saying I don't wish my relative to wear a mask.

Ms Russell said the group would also seeking clarity on guidelines which state that residents can visit cafes with relatives but those relatives are not permitted to have a cup of tea in their room.

The Herald asked a number of care home providers if they would be following the updated guidance on masks.

READ MORE: Dozens of care homes required up to five visits before they were deemed 'Covid safe' 

Constance Care said it did not wish to be quoted but said it would continue to follow all government guidance.

Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care said: "In our discussions with officials, we are seeking to make clear that a care home is first and foremost someone’s home and that means that individuals should not be expected to wear masks (unless they choose to do so). 

"What particularly concerns us in all this is the risk of conflating advice for acute clinical settings with advice for care homes.

"Residents need to be treated with dignity, autonomy and to have their individual human rights upheld. Such dignity includes during periods when direct care is being offered. 

"The wearing of masks can be extremely distressing for individuals, limits their ability to communicate with and relate to others, and reduces their ability to lead a normal life in what is their own home. 

"Scottish Care will continue to press for Guidance which is sensitive to the realities of life in a care homes especially where people living with dementia are being supported.

"Care home residents have lived through a huge degree of trauma in the last year plus and we must urgently seek to normalise life not create more barriers."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We all want to keep care home residents as safe as possible, and equally we do not want measures such as social distancing and masks to be in place for longer than they need to be.

"That is why we regularly review our care home guidance in partnership with the sector to make sure it is relevant and proportionate – and we will continue to work with them to make sure the guidance is fully understood by everyone.

“Masks are not required when residents are in communal areas when they are physically distanced from others. If a resident is not able to wear a mask they will not be required to wear one – this has always been the case in care home settings.”