New laws on care home visiting rights should be extended to hospitals where elderly patients may be even more likely to experience loneliness and isolation, the government has been told.

More than 400 groups and individuals have responded to a consultation on proposals to introduce Anne’s Law, which aims to ensure that care home residents have the legal right to continue to see loved ones, with appropriate safeguards.

It followed a petition launched by Natasha Hamilton, who was unable to see her mother, Anne Duke, for prolonged periods during the height of the pandemic. 

Scottish pro-independence think-tank Common Weal said it opposed any legislation restricting visits to one designated person saying it was “bureaucratic and inflexible”.

The group said it was also opposed to the government’s intention to favour an individualised approach where care homes assess visits on a case by case basis.

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It said: “We are very concerned that a requirement for individual assessments will act to prevent direct contact, both because of the volume of work required but also because questions of trying to enforce rights will get bogged down in individual details. 

The Common Weal said enabling visitors to be treated like staff with the same stringent infection control precautions would mean there was no reason to infringe human rights by separating families.

Dr Cathy Mitchell said care home residents should be able to meet with “several relatives at once” without booking being required, provided health and safety adhered to and a negative lateral flow test.

The Herald:

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said that any additional costs incurred to relatives or care homes should be met by the government.

“For instance, additional PPE provision for staff, visitors and residents. In addition, there should be a requirement for additional staff or additional resource to manage the new standards, costings should be fully covered.”

Others said Anne’s Law  should also apply to elderly patients in hospital who may feel even more isolated than those in a care home.

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Christopher Curnin of The Glade Care Home said: “Usually in a care home, they would at least be surrounded by staff who they know and are comfortable with. 

“Yet they go in to hospital, this would be a completely new and unfamiliar setting, surrounded by people they don’t know and feeling poorly and utterly lost, yet for some reason the NHS may not allow a visitor.  The legislation must apply across all settings.”

The majority of respondents said legislation should require care home to facilitate visits by one named visitor and substitutes.

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One respondent said the pandemic had shown that adults in care settings “don’t get the same level of care that some one living in their own home receives”.

Cathie Russell, who launched the campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland, said continued contact between elderly people and those they are close to was as important as “food and drink”.

The majority of responders were in favour of the Care Inspectorate launching a new standard on visiting rights, independent of Anne’s Law, which formed a separate consultation.

Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart said the government remained committed to the introduction of Anne's Law.

He said: "Over 400 responses were received to the two consultations and we are currently awaiting the final analysis of these. 

"In the meantime we have now published responses where consent was given.

“We're currently working with the Care Inspectorate to update the Health and Social Care Standards and this work will be informed by the consultations. 

"The Scottish Government remains committed to introducing Anne’s Law as soon as it is practically possible to do so.”