PROTESTERS gathered outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday demanding that MSPs ensure families are given access to their loved ones in care homes.

Supporters of Anne’s Law demonstrated outside the grounds of Holyrood saying the current guidance is not enough for families – and that legislation is needed.

Anne’s Law calls for each care home resident to be given access to one nominated family member or friend regardless of lockdown levels.

The legislation is named after Anne Duke, a 63-year-old care home resident with dementia, and was set up by her daughter Natasha Hamilton in February.

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It has so far received more than 96,000 signatures and calls for a “designated visitor” for each care resident to be put into law.

On Wednesday, the Scottish Government published new guidance to allow care home residents to choose someone as a “named visitor” who can visit a loved one even during a Covid outbreak.

The Government says the change will “allow those living in care homes to continue to have meaningful contact with loved ones, and balance the need for continuing infection prevention and control measures in care homes with the wider wellbeing of residents”.

Anne's Law was in the SNP's Programme for Government and ministers have signalled their intention to pass it at a later point - most likely with a number of changes.

However, some campaigners are still unhappy and are protesting to ensure the bill is passed.

Calum lost his father during the Covid crisis after an extended stay in a care home.

He said: “In the last year and a half people in care homes have suffered from various restrictions. We have had two major lockdowns where no access is allowed.

“Since then if anyone tests positive in a care home they are shut down for 14 days. And there was no definition of what end-of-life was for compassionate visits.

“For a lot of these people, they are still struggling to see their family. They are forgotten to some degree.”

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Calum continued: “In the first lockdown he stopped eating and stopped drinking and we got compassionate access. Then he started eating and he started drinking again.

“Second lockdown at Christmas we’d scheduled in a Christmas visit. That was cancelled because a member of staff tested positive. Same situation. Stopped eating, stopped drinking.

“Then we got to March and we got compassionate access a week before he passed away.”

The National:

The protester said his father suffered “extreme periods” of loneliness and isolation, saying the family spent a year fighting for access instead of seeing him.

“To a degree, we were robbed of that chance to say goodbye,” he said. “Irrespective of what’s happening in wider society, people in care should always have access to a nominated individual.”

The protest at times was drowned out by another demonstration taking place at the other side of the Scottish Parliament over plans to make it easier for police to remove protesters.

At one point, a woman from the care homes demonstration asked those in the protest curb rally to “have some respect” and be quieter as they were disrupting the care protest.

Those fighting for Anne’s Law to be passed told The National they were unaware that the rally against the protest crackdown plans was set to take place. Both protests carried on peacefully.

Kathryne Fletcher, whose mum has been living in a care home for three years, described the first few months of lockdown as “horror” for care home residents.

Fletcher told The National: “Guidelines were put out yesterday. All well and good but they're still guidelines. And each care home facility will then interpret the guidelines to their own ends.

The National: Linda Gill, left, and Kathryn Fletcher want to see a change in the law for care homesLinda Gill, left, and Kathryn Fletcher want to see a change in the law for care homes

“What we want is law so that every care home resident, adolescent or elderly care home resident, has the right to one designated relative or good friend, to be able to see them, even if there's another lockdown, through future pandemics, which there will be in the world.

“People have suffered, especially with dementia, their cognitive abilities have decreased, they're sad, they're crying, they've withdrawn, they're facing the wall.”

Fletcher said that it was a sudden transition for her family when lockdown rules came into place.

“When Covid hit, suddenly, we had to be outside the room,” she said.

“And then the next day, I couldn't come at all. So that separation was just horrendous.

“And for me and my family suddenly being wrenched apart for months and months and months, it took a toll on her mental health."

Linda Gill, who was also at the protest, said her father was in the hospital for five months and was then placed in a care home. She went almost half a year without seeing him.

Gill said: “I think what we've got is a situation where for years, we've been told that social isolation is really a bad thing for elderly people.

“And yet all the approaches that are currently being taken when the rest of society has moved on - we have nightclubs open, we have bars open, and vaccine passports.

“In so many cases, people don't realise that my parents, for example, have been locked in their rooms for 14 days at a time, because there's one case and they're fearful.

“So we're really here just to make sure people don't think everything's fine in nursing homes right now.

“For some people, it’s going to be a horrible winter ahead.”

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Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Kevin Stewart said: “Throughout the pandemic, our overriding priority in care homes has been to safeguard and protect staff and residents from infection – but at times that meant that residents were cut off from their loved ones, which we know has caused anguish and distress for many.

“The proposal for a named visitor will provide continuity of meaningful contact for care home residents in managed Covid-19 outbreak situations, helping to protect residents’ wellbeing in parallel by allowing visiting in a safer way, rather than automatically suspending routine visiting during an outbreak.

“We will further strengthen residents’ rights in adult residential settings through the introduction of ‘Anne’s Law’ and a consultation setting out our aspirations for Anne’s Law and seeking views on how best we might make it work in practice will be published shortly.”