CAMPAIGNERS gathered outside Holyrood yesterday urging the Scottish Government to ease restrictions on visitors to care homes.

Currently three visitors from two households are able to see care home residents in outdoor meetings.

Indoor visits are only allowed when the care home meets certain conditions, including weekly coronavirus testing for staff and a risk assessment approved by the local director of public health.

The Care Home Relatives Scotland group wants more access for relatives, fearing that the restrictions introduced in the wake of the pandemic are damaging for residents.

Cathie Russell told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that she had seen a “huge decline” in her own mother’s cognitive abilities.

She said: “She is in a good home and very well cared for physically but people need their families.

“These people have basically been imprisoned since March and their mental health is declining.

“They are completely bewildered, they haven’t seen relatives for months and they are having to sit miles away from them when they do.”

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Asked about the campaigners’ pleas during the Scottish Government’s regular coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said she had “huge sympathy for relatives in this position”.

She added: “These are in a set of circumstances where every decision we have to take right now is a tough one, with no easy answers.

“The decisions around care homes are probably the toughest of all because we understand how vulnerable those in care homes are, how much anguish there is on the part of friends and family in particular when they can’t see loved ones as normal.

“We think very carefully about these things and of course we consider the representations.”

Chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen said the Government had to be “cautious about loosening up access” but she promised that the Scottish Government is “actively considering” how to increase access for families.

“We are doing everything we can to look at the evidence, to look at how we can best facilitate that and to make the life of people within care homes and their families and more joyous, more loving and more comfortable all round,” she said.