Families have reacted angrily to plans by a major care home provider that could see them forced to book ‘appointments’ to see loved ones permanently.
Most homes require advance warning of visits to limit numbers but it had been thought this was a temporary, precautionary measure while government restrictions remain in place.
However, Four Seasons Healthcare, which is one of the UK’s largest care home providers, has said it could become a long-term arrangement.
In a letter to relatives, the firm said: “The process of booking a visit in advance seems to have become second nature to many people now and could be considered as best practice in the future.”
Families likened the measure to booking a prison visit and pointed out that hospitals do not require visitors to call in advance.
“There is nothing normal about this.
The Herald contacted a number of other firms including HC-One, Care Concern Group and Balhousie.
A spokesman for the Care Concern Group said it was too early to say if the policy would be continued but said it would be guided by the government and resident preferences. HC-One said it would continue the current system for the time being.
Kelly Anderson, who father is in a home run by Four Seasons, said: “Under no circumstances will I accept that I must make an appointment to visit my dad for the rest of his time in a care home.
“If you don’t know your work pattern in advance, you can’t make prior arrangements by which point there are no available slots, this is not only unfair on the relative but very much so for the residents.
“There is nothing normal about this. My daughter wants to see her grandad, my dad has missed my youngest growing up through the toddler stage.
“I am actually astonished they think it is even acceptable to suggest such a nonsense.”
Another relative described the company’s assertion the practice had become second nature as a “cruel and disgraceful self-serving distortion of reality”.
Belinda Cunnison, whose mother is in a home run by Abercorn Care Ltd, said:
“I appreciate a short-term benefit from restrictions in some degree but it’s all gone way over the top and is not an acceptable default position for the future.”
Four Seasons Healthcare has previously spoken out against government guidelines, which were later revised, suggesting masks should be worn by elderly residents in communal areas.
Cathie Russell, of the campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland said there is huge concern amongst relatives that current visiting restrictions become entrenched in the care sector.
She said: “People don’t have to book appointments to visit someone in hospital, even now.
“How much more important is it that wives can visit their husbands or daughters their mums without making appointments to see them in their homes.
“We have accepted people need to book in for lat flow tests but if they can do their own or the need for lat flow tests subsides, people should be able to drop in when they feel the need – just as it was before.
“Closed institutions where people are only welcome by appointment can mask situations where there are staffing shortages or other things are going wrong as endless public inquiries have shown.”
A spokeswoman for Four Seasons Healthcare said: “We continue to follow all Government guidelines regarding visitation and other infection control measures to keep our colleagues and residents safe.
“We have not yet made any decisions about our policies after the guidelines are changed, but these decisions will be based on infection levels in local areas and recommendations from the regulator and authorities.
“Any changes to our permanent visitation policy will be made in consultation with residents, relatives, colleagues and the relevant authorities.
“Despite the success of the visitation programme, there is still an infection risk and our continued focus is the health and wellbeing of everyone in our homes.”