In recent weeks we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of enquires to our 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline and our Action on Rights Team relating to the 14 day isolation period for care home residents who have symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test. This impacts on the opportunity for meaningful contact with family and friends and the ability of care home residents to participate in meaningful activity or have contact with others within the care home.

The evidence of the harms caused by the measures intended to prevent the spread of infection is incontrovertible and the need to balance protection from the infection and the harms is well understood.  Despite this, it appears that care home residents, of whom many are people living with dementia, are not being treated equally. For those in care homes and their families, the past two years have been devastating and for those who are now having to re live those months with more restrictions on visiting, and seeing the decline in the health and wellbeing of their family member who is isolating, is deeply distressing.

While we fully understand the need to keep care home residents safe from the risks of COVID-19 infection, there is a very understandable perception that they are being left behind. In recent days the period of self-isolation in Scotland has been reduced from 10 days to 7 days when certain conditions are met. As of Monday 24th January football stadiums, sporting venues and nightclubs can return to ‘normal’, an end to 1 metre distancing and table service in hospitality and no attendance limits at indoors events. 

Yet care home residents continue to live under the strictest of measures? 

On the 24th December 2021, Public Health Scotland published the updated COVID-19: Information and Guidance for Care Home Settings (Adults and Older People). This guidance confirmed that all residents in a care home who have symptoms of, or test positive for Covid-19 be immediately isolated for 14 days from the first date of symptoms. However, the guidance does not provide an adequate explanation as to why this approach should be so materially different for the rest of the population.

Two weeks isolation is substantial period of time for those who may be in the last years or months of their lives. For many, the past two years have robbed them of the opportunity to spend meaningful time with those most important to them.  We know that this has caused significant harms both physically and psychologically not only to the resident but to their families and friends.  It is therefore incumbent on those who make policy decisions to provide clear and accessible evidence which justifies that the measures being taken are proportionate and balanced against the known harms of such measures.  It is our view that there has been no adequate explanation of the evidence that justifies why care home residents are being treated differently from the rest of the population in Scotland. 

We therefore request that the evidence which justifies the substantially different levels of restriction for those living in care homes and their families be made public and explained fully so that all of those impacted are fully informed about the reasons for measures which otherwise appear to be at odds with other areas of life.

In the absence of evidence which justifies the current measure in care homes, then it is our position that the measures in care be brought in line with those that apply to the wider population. 

We wrote to Public Health Scotland regarding this matter on 14th January and look forward to their response.