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By Hugh Boag
Visitors to Montrose House in Brodick are taking part in a pilot scheme aimed at giving them better access to loved ones in the care home.
They are being offered faster Covid-19 tests as part of a trial at 14 care homes across five local authority areas – North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde and Aberdeenshire.
Designated visitors are able to take the test to indicate whether they have the virus ahead of seeing friends, relatives and loved ones, who have spent months without visitors during the pandemic.
However, the pilot scheme has put more pressure on the island’s health services which are at ‘full stretch’ as they are also dealing with the new Covid vaccine, ongoing flu inoculation and normal winter pressures. There has been a single new case of the coronavirus recorded on Arran in the last seven days.
The lateral flow tests being given to visitors do not need to go to labs and can give results in under an hour. Visitors who test negative will still have to wear PPE. If there is a positive result the visitor will be advised to leave the home, self-isolate and book a PCR test at a coronavirus testing centre.
After the pilot scheme has been evaluated, testing kits will then be sent out to all care homes in Scotland from next week. Montrose House was was chosen to take part to allow learning from an island setting.
Scottish health minister Jeane Freeman has called the move a positive step for care homes, residents and their families and friends.
She said: ‘This will provide another important layer of protection against Covid, alongside the essential PPE and infection prevention and control measures already in place.
‘I’m very pleased to say we will be able to significantly accelerate the delivery of testing kits to all care homes from December 14, following the necessary trial phase to ensure we have the right guidance and training in place.’
She added: ‘This will require a significant amount of work from care homes, and we will continue to work closely with Health and Social Care Partnerships, Scottish Care, CCPS and COSLA as test kits are rolled out to ensure they have the support they need to deliver testing for designated visitors.
‘However, it’s important to remember that testing does not replace the other vital layers of protection we have against Covid, and all of these – reducing contacts, keeping our distance, wearing face coverings, and vaccines when they come – work most effectively to stop the virus when they are used together.’
Not all care homes are expected to be able to offer the tests to visitors by Christmas, so the government has confirmed PCR tests will be available for visitors at coronavirus testing centres.
A Health and Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: ‘The First Minister announced earlier this month that lateral flow tests will be provided to care homes from December 14 to enable care homes to begin to adopt testing for designated visitors.
‘A number of care homes have been designated early adopters from five different local authority areas, and Montrose House in Brodick is one of three care homes located within North Ayrshire supporting this initiative.
‘The scheme commenced on December 7 and Montrose House was chosen to allow for any learning from an island setting to be fed into the national roll-out.
‘This is an additional layer of protection to enhance existing safety protocols and practices and to provide additional confidence to care homes, staff, residents and visitors.’