Frustrated families are threatening to stop paying care home fees in protest at not being able to see their loved ones
The claim follows anger about a lack of contact for families who had been expecting regular visits of up to four hours and close contact with relatives.
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay raised the concerns in a tense exchange at Holyrood on Tuesday which saw him brand SNP depute leader Keith Brown “ignorant” and a “clown” for heckling.
Findlay called for urgent talks across political parties led by by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on emergency legislation to get safe and secure contact for families and care home residents.
He warned: “It is really important for families. Over the weekend, I have spoken to families who are prepared to take action that they really do not want to take, including legal action and the withholding of care home fees.”
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay (Image: PA)
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Findlay said: “I ask the cabinet secretary not to force families into doing that. We should have those talks, this afternoon or tomorrow, to see how we can remedy the situation, because it is absolutely critical.”
Earlier, he told MSPs his mum is a resident in a care home. He said people are fed up of being told they will get better access only to find they are not getting what they expected.
He reminded parliament indoor visits of up to four hours were announced in October.
“I know nobody who has had anything like a four-hour visit,” Findlay said.
“We also heard about outdoor visits with up to six visitors and increased personal interaction, including hugs and hand holding, as long as PPE and infection prevention and control measures are met. That is fantasy for most families. I certainly dream of that happening.”
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Brown, the SNP depute leader, interrupted Findlay in the debating chamber by demanding a question, prompting an angry exchange.
Findlay said: “I will ask a question when I get around to it. Do not be so ignorant. This is an extremely important issue.”
Holyrood’s presiding officer called for order, before Findlay added: “If he thinks that this is not an important issue, he needs to have a word with himself. Clown.”
Neil Findlay has called for care home visits (Image: REACH PLC)
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Freeman agreed to the call for cross-party talks and said: “I do not disagree for a minute with Neil Findlay on how important it is to families and to residents. I hear it when I meet the care home relatives group, as I did, most recently, last week. I also hear it from my constituents and from my family, so I absolutely understand it.
“I am very happy to see what more we as a government can do, but we should also be straight with people about the limitations regarding time-frame and action.
“I am happy to discuss that, but in circumstances in which care homes do not wish to follow the guidance and open up for visiting, we must not pretend that we could force them to do that, as that would need to be considered.
“Nor can we pretend that if we wanted to do it, we could do it quickly.
“I am happy to look at and discuss that, but we must not set it up as some kind of binary position, in which people are on either the right or the wrong side.
“I think that Mr Findlay and I are on the same side. I might not be moving fast enough for him and I might not be doing everything that he wants, but we should have the discussion to see what more is possible.”