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Former NHS Highland board member issues appeal over visits to Easter Ross care home amid fears coronavirus will keep loved ones apart for months

By Louise Glen

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Melanie Newdick with her mum Christine Newdick at Kintyre Care Home.
Melanie Newdick with her mum Christine Newdick at Kintyre Care Home.

THE daughter of a woman who lives in a Ross-shire care home fears it may be a another ten months before she can be in the same room as her 77-year-old mum again.

Melanie Newdick (49), a former member of NHS Highland's board, has called for a more "pragmatic" approach to care home visiting to safeguard the mental and physical health of residents and their loved ones.

Her mum Christine lives at Kintyre House in Invergordon, which during the lockdown was at the centre of an investigation after the Care Inspectorate issued its coronavirus response "weak" .

In a letter to the Scottish Government's health secretary Jeane Freeman, Ms Newdick, said: "At present we have been unable to visit our mum for five months. We live in the Highlands where rates of Covid–19 have been relatively low.

"The home my mum is in has not experienced any cases of Covid-19 in either the residents or the staff. Currently we can only visit mum once a week for 30 minutes for a window visit. We cannot visit as a designated visitor because this is currently restricted to one family member, despite being outside and it seems unfair to prevent my nephew and sister from being able to see their mum and nan."

Ms Newdick, from Milton near Invergordon, added: "The home my mum is in has been subject to a large scale review. This home has been performing poorly for some time. As a result residents have been kept to their rooms for several weeks with no activities and all meals served in their rooms.They have not been outside in the garden or out for any activities.

"The activities co-ordinators were furloughed so there has been very little to keep the residents active and engaged. The home has no wifi coverage so we have been unable to connect with mum in any other way and the home have been ambiguous in their reply when asked if they have been reading the cards we send into mum each week."

Sandra Newdick and Christine Newdick during a visit in the summer.
Sandra Newdick and Christine Newdick during a visit in the summer.

She told Ms Freeman: "To adopt a blanket approach to visiting across Scotland is an approach that builds unfairness into the system. Homes should have more flexibility to adapt their visiting taking account of the home and the local risk but also the individual resident. The risk assessment for each home is likely to be different as is this risk assessment for each individual.

"Given that there is unlikely to be any change in Covid-19 until a vaccine is found or a treatment we need a solution that is going to work for the next 10 months or so at least."

A spokesman for home operator Sanctuary Care said: “We completely understand how difficult these unprecedented times have been for our residents and their relatives, and in all our homes we have been trying to provide options for carefully controlled contact such as video or phone calls, or catch-ups through windows.

“We are all looking forward to the day that normal visiting can resume, and while we must continue to follow the detailed guidance provided by Public Health Scotland, we are currently reviewing our visiting arrangements as we move from the warmer months into autumn and winter.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it had received Ms Newdick's letter and will respond in due course.

A spokesman said guidance outlining a staged approach to the safe introduction of visiting in care homes during thepandemic has been issued. He said indoor visits will be allowed once plans have been developed by care homes and approved by the local public health bosses, subject to criteria including the home being Covid-free for 28 days and involved in weekly testing of workers.

David Park, NHS Highland’s chief officer for community services, said: “NHS Highland, Care Inspectorate and Sanctuary Care are working together on developing and implementingthe improvement plan.”

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