Relatives of isolated care home residents have spoken of their disappointment in former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for refusing to meet them during the Covid pandemic. 

Speaking at the Scottish Covid Inquiry on Friday (October 27), members of the Care Home Relatives Scotland (CHRS) group said they felt people in care homes were forgotten about by the Scottish Government.

Catherine Russell, Sheila Hall, Alison Leitch and Natasha Hamilton joined the hearing in Edinburgh, representing the group of people which formed out of "pure desperation" during the pandemic. 

Nicola Sturgeon, the then First Minister, did not meet with CHRS despite many requests, the inquiry heard. 

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Alison Leitch said: "We were all very disappointed. The First Minister seemed to send messages out to certain demographics. There was a message to children that Santa was a key worker.

"She met with [The Scottish Covid Bereaved]. There was a message to students telling them to go home for Christmas.

"It always felt that our residents were just not on the radar. This was enforced by care home residents never being included in the daily briefings or when there was updates to the general public. Care home residents were never mentioned in this."

Ms Leitch, whose mother was in a care home, said their frustration was made worse when restrictions were eased for the public. 

She said: "You could eat out to help out, there was travel outdoors. But there was nothing meaningful changing for care homes.

"It was as if residents had just been forgotten about. I could see my friends going out for lunch, they could go on holiday with their mum. But I couldn't have any meaningful contact with my mum. 

"That was really where the frustration came from, that nothing was changing for residents."

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Ms Leitch said: "A lot of people kept telling me that your mum's safe. Nobody else was taking account of the other harms that were happening with her being isolated." 

The group said it was concerned the Scottish Government and public health advisors saw Covid-19 as the only harm.

In a statement to the inquiry, CHRS said the authorities "did not consider the trauma and the effect on mental health that enforced separation from loved ones would cause".

Catherine Russell, who set up Care Home Residents Scotland initially as a Facebook group, said: "There was a huge outpouring of emotion, we had all been struggling individually, dealing with being cut off from our relatives for so long. 

"We really wanted to work positively with the Scottish Government to try and get some common sense back into this, because we felt that the measures that were being taken were so detrimental to our loved ones."

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She said: "We had a lot of husbands and wives who had been together for 40-50 years and they were no longer allowed to see each other. They could just look through a window. 

"And this was at a time where, had their husband or wife been in hospital, they could have sat and held hands with them for an hour every day. Because hospital visiting had been re-established indoors but it hadn't been re-stablished in care homes."

Ms Russell spoke about being able to see her mother finally when open door visiting started again. 

She said: "My mother was kept in a home and I would be stood several metres away shouting at her through open patio doors. And that was how we spent time together."

And she said: "People were completely distraught. And those whose loved ones died were finding it extremely hard to cope with that loss."

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After what she had experienced with her mother Anne Duke, Natasha Hamilton fought for a law that gives people in Scottish care homes the right to visits from their loved ones, named Anne's Law.

She said: "One of the only times that care home residents were actually mentioned was in Christmas 2020 when the whole country was going to go into a lockdown on Boxing Day.

"Everybody was told you could have a family bubble on Christmas day. But the former First Minister stood up and said unless you're visiting someone in a care home, do not create a bubble. She didn't tell staff not to create a bubble. She told families, if you're visiting someone, do not create a bubble.

"And that had a major impact on how people viewed care homes and visitors."

She said "everyone was just concentrating on Covid" but residents were "shut off from everything". 

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"I was shut off from seeing my mum, but I could still speak to my husband, I could still make phonecalls.

"People in care homes didn't have that option. The isolation just heightened that. I don't think anyone took that into consideration.

"All they were thinking of doing was protecting them from Covid. They didn't listen to any of us when we said the reasons why they're in care homes are worsening because of the isolation. 

Sheila Hall added: "There was guidance coming from so many different places. There was a definite lack of clarity that caused confusion and difficulty."

The Scottish Covid Inquiry continues.