Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to end care home isolation has been branded an “unforgivable betrayal” after it emerged one in five remain in lockdown.
The First Minister vowed to introduce Anne’s Law – giving essential caregivers legal rights – 10 months ago after a Sunday Mail-backed campaign.
It was hoped the legislation would be speedily introduced among a raft of measures to ensure residents could never again be separated from their closest loved ones.
But a Bill has yet to be placed before the Scottish Parliament and thousands of families continue to endure heartbreaking lockdowns as the second anniversary of the pandemic approaches.
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While official guidance now encourages visitor contact, homes can still shut their doors to most visitors in the event of even a single positive Covid case being discovered.
And shocking government records showed last week that it left 21 percent of homes likely to be operating under severe restrictions.
Labour’s Monica Lennon said: “People living in care homes continue to be left behind.
“They are the forgotten faces of the pandemic and barely get a mention from Nicola Sturgeon, unless she is prompted by other MSPs.
“When the SNP promised to change the law to end isolation in care homes, making Anne’s Law an important pledge in their manifesto, this gave people hope that lessons had been learned.
“Two years into the pandemic, we still have people in care homes in isolation for long periods because their basic human rights are not being upheld.
“Ministers are failing to listen to infection prevention control experts who know how to safely facilitate contact between elderly and disabled residents and their loved ones.
“We now have all the tools – PPE, tests and vaccines.
“The Scottish Government must recognize that 700 days of loneliness is causing misery for thousands of care home residents and has contributed to many deaths.
“Nicola Sturgeon has broken many promises in her time but failing to deliver Anne’s Law would be an unforgivable betrayal.
“All parties support this and she must set out a clear timescale for bringing this emergency legislation to Parliament.”
Around 35,000 residents were forced to live in virtual isolation during lockdown despite warnings loneliness could kill more than Covid.
We joined forces with families last year to demand at least one designated loved one be given the same rights as staff to enter homes and spend time with residents while following infection control measures.
The proposals were backed by dozens of public health experts and medics as well as all opposition parties at Holyrood.
The SNP finally committed to delivering groundbreaking legislation – named after dementia sufferer Anne Duke.
It was made a manifesto promise by Sturgeon on April 18 during her successful election campaign to continue as First Minister.
But angry relatives, activists and politicians are now running out of patience.
Cathie Russell, of Care Home Relatives Scotland, said: “Since the Omicron variant hit, many residents have passed away without the joy of seeing close family as they are restricted to a single relative and sometimes not even that.
“Indeed, people in care homes have not seen an unmasked human face for two years now.
“We need to ask ourselves what we would want if we became severely disabled or were approaching the end of life and I think we would all agree it would be to have nice times with our families and friends.
“They say a lockdown for an outbreak is 14 days but we have members whose loved ones have been locked up for more than 50 days because there is always someone in a home that employs hundreds of staff who will test positive in any one week, whether relatives are banned or not.
“Many of our loved ones have lost the ability to walk and talk as these were things they did while spending time with their family.
“The constant lockdowns, which often involve isolating people in their own small rooms, simply roll on and many residents are losing the will to live.
“As we speak, one in five care homes in Scotland is totally locked down.
“The truth is there are now worse harms than Covid. Thanks to vaccines, the infection is proving to be much less severe.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government and clinicians who draw up guidelines to take a different approach. We need Anne’s Law on the statute books.”
A third of Scotland’s Covid deaths – about 4000 victims – are linked to care homes.
But the number of deaths as a result of the virus has fallen dramatically since the arrival of vaccines.
A nurse who spent 18 months working as a care home visiting coordinator has demanded an end to the “unethical” and “distressing” isolation of residents.
The health care professional, who has a close relative living in care and doesn’t want to be named, said: “I saw first-hand the harmful impact of isolation policies on residents and families, as well as difficulties for staff.
“The delays in opening during outbreaks and long closures, especially over Christmas, have been very distressing for many. I think it’s unethical to isolate residents for so long.
“We need to reflect back to pre-Covid times on how we assessed care needs and reinstate the values we had for family connection.”
Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We’re committed to introducing Anne’s Law as soon as possible.
“We have already published responses to consultations on Anne’s Law and this month we will be publishing the final analysis of all responses.
“The Scottish Government fully expects care homes and health protection teams to support people living in care homes to have visits from loved ones unless there are truly exceptional circumstances.”
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