We recognise the complex and difficult circumstances that care homes in Scotland have been operating under during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we acknowledge and commend the continued commitment of care home providers and staff to care for people with compassion and dignity.

People must be able and supported to have meaningful contact with loved ones and, now that the vaccination programme in care homes is well underway, it is right that care homes open again to visitors. Some providers may have concerns about the opening of homes, but people’s rights and needs must be the focus of decision making.

CHOP flowers

To help care homes, the Scottish Government has published Open with Care and we strongly support this. Open with Care is guidance that clearly sets out how care homes can welcome visitors safely with the appropriate measures in place.

We fully expect every care home to facilitate visiting and implement Open with Care. Having visits is essential for wellbeing and good mental health. Separation from loved ones has been difficult and traumatic for residents and families and many have struggled to connect virtually, particularly those living with dementia.

Enabling and supporting meaningful contact through visiting must be given priority and this includes enabling privacy for visits. Meaningful contact must be included in personal plans, with clear strategies in place for staff to support people.

All homes must ensure the wellbeing of the individual is central to all decision making about visiting. It is not acceptable for homes to make blanket decisions to restrict or prevent visiting. Such practice compromises people’s human rights. Open with Care provides advice on balancing rights with safety and gives guidance on good practice, infection prevention and control and testing of visitors.

We will monitor the Safety Huddle tool for homes not implementing Open with Care and contact them to offer support for implementation. We will share this information with local oversight groups to ensure local support is also available. Where we see that the guidance is not being implemented or essential visiting is not in place, we will require providers to take action.  

If your care home is having difficulty implementing the guidance, please contact your inspector who can offer support and assistance including linking you to supports in your area through local oversight groups.

Essential visiting

All care homes must continue to support and enable compassionate essential visiting as defined and set out in section 07 of Open with Care. Essential visiting is in addition to routine visiting and must be in place and supported by all care homes.

Further guidance and support for services

Providers, managers, and staff should become familiar with Open with Care.

Scottish Government gave a helpful webinar presentation on implementing the guidance.

Supplementary guidance that answers questions from services is available.

Our Covid-19 webpages are a good source of further information and guidance to support services.