Treatment of vulnerable care home residents during covid pandemic is a national disgrace – Mail Opinion


It is hard to believe it is now almost two years since coronavirus first turned our world upside down.

Even more difficult to comprehend is why – long after the majority of us have been allowed to reclaim our lives – the weakest and most vulnerable are still being forced to endure an existence of unspeakable cruelty.

Care home residents are the shameful forgotten victims of this pandemic.

Their plight is a national disgrace and represents a tragic failure of government which many families will rightly never be able to forgive.

In the beginning residents died needlessly in their thousands – almost certainly in part due to the inexplicably stupid policy of sending infected patients into homes.

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And now, despite Covid fatalities having reduced massively, tens of thousands of mums, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, sons and daughters are being subjected to never-ending lockdown cycles of virtual incarceration.

They are cut off from the people who love them the most and who they need at their side more than ever in what is often the final years of their lives.

The horrifying toll this is taking on the mental and physical health of both residents and their families cannot be quantified.

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It seems clear that human rights legislation – which includes the right to family life – is being systematically trampled.

So too is the advice of countless experts who have repeatedly warned that the devastating impact of isolation is cutting more lives short than the virus.

But listening to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf whenever they are forced to address this issue, you would think everything was fine.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf

Guidance has been changed – they insist – processes updated and any visiting restrictions that absolutely must remain in place are there purely for the good of residents.

Unfortunately for those actually living in care homes or trying to visit them – something government ministers have rarely done – the rosy picture repeatedly painted in Holyrood couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sturgeon must know this – she has been told a hundred times and hopefully read the dozens of accounts of the horrific mental torture of residents published in the Sunday Mail.

Yet for some reason the weeks and months roll by and very little changes.

As things stand, just one case of Covid among staff can result in a home being locked down. It means facilities which often employ more than 100 workers have been in a perpetual lockdown since March 2020.

This is quite simply unacceptable and needs to change now.

Meanwhile, Anne’s Law legislation – championed by this newspaper and promised by Sturgeon in her winning Holyrood election manifesto last year – has still not been delivered, despite months of warm words.

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Not a single MSP in the Scottish Parliament appears to oppose this legislation, which would give a legal right to at least one named visitor.

It not only has cross-party political support but also the support of families, public health experts from every area and even the care industry itself.

So why, after all this time, are we still waiting for it to be delivered?

During the pandemic emergency legislation was enacted within days banning people from leaving their homes and even reducing the ability of journalists to hold the Government to account using Freedom of Information laws.

Failure, after almost two years, to get to grips with the human rights abomination in care homes can only now be put down to two things.

It is either the result of rank incompetence or that Sturgeon and Yousaf simply don’t care that much about the quality of life of our most elderly and vulnerable citizens.

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So long as they aren’t making the statistics look bad by dying of Covid, they can sit alone and depressed and abandoned in their rooms – consigned to spending their last precious moments without the voices and touch of the family members and loved ones they live for.

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Care homes should be just that – genuine homes that care deeply for the people who live in them.

The First Minister is in danger of instead allowing them to become sterile end-of-life detention centers that deliver profit for owners and not much else. As things stand, residents are frequently denied the visiting rights that convicts can legally demand.

When Sturgeon became First Minister in 2014, she demanded to be judged on her ability to close the attainment gap between the richest and poorest school pupils.

That gap is widening, according to an official report published in December.

Her supporters will argue this is an unavoidable consequence of the pandemic – but, in truth, there have also been abject failures in every field, from the NHS to the economy.

The SNP leader’s envisioned legacy of improving the life chances of the youngest members of society is now all but dead in the water.

Unless she acts, and acts now, her failure to end the humanitarian crisis in care homes will be remembered as a shameful betrayal of
the eldest.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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