Scottish Covid inquiry: Fife mum’s letter on anguish of restricted visits

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The Scottish Covid inquiry has heard from a Fife mother who read out a letter published in the Fife Free Press which spoke of the anguish of a socially distanced garden visit to visit her daughter in a care home.

It came on day nine of the inquiry currently brewing held in Edinburgh to look at how the pandemic restrictions were handled to identify any lessons that need to be learned and make recommendations to Scottish Ministers.

The Fife mother’s letter was first published in August 2020 amid growing concerns over the impact on lockdown on people in care, and their families whose contact was severely limited. They were restricted to just one 30-minute face to face visit once per week which had to take place outdoors - in the garden or a gazebo in the care home grounds.

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And those rules applied not just to elderly people in care homes but also to young people in care, regardless of their age, health or medical condition - a group many parents felt had been completely forgotten during the pandemic.

Familiar signage from lockdown (Pic: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)Familiar signage from lockdown (Pic: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Familiar signage from lockdown (Pic: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

We published the latter anonymously as it spoke for many who faced a similar position. It was delivered in full today to the inquiry which is headed by Lord Brailsford.

The letter read: “A garden visit sounded better than a window visit but do you think it was? I saw you twisting the neck of your t-shirt, jiggling your leg and avoiding eye contact; all the things you do at review meetings when you are anxious. You also wanted to get a letter to show me but you were not allowed to do that.

I had a tissue in my pocket, but would have broken the rules if I had given it to you to wipe your chin. That made me sad. The whole visit felt like that day almost 19 years ago, you were 10, when you were going for major heart surgery.

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Leaving the house in plenty of time so we arrived well before the appointment time. Filling in forms, although yesterday it was my details that were required for the visitors’ booking form. Today it was me who had to have my temperature recorded before the visit could proceed and you could be allowed out. I wasn’t allowed to have dad there to support me today though - one designated visitor, for 30 minutes once a week is all that is allowed.

Like that day, once everything was checked I began to dread seeing you being led away again.

I tried to keep talking to you just as we would normally but your responses were not the same as they usually would be. I mentioned a relative’s new house but you didn’t ask when you could go and see it or them. You seem resigned to life as it is now because you didn’t once mention “the bloody bug” or ask when you could come and stay with us for the weekend. In the early days of lockdown you asked every time I spoke to you.

When you were being taken down to the operating theatre I was able to kiss you, tell you I loved you and that I would see you soon. Today I could only blow you a kiss while wearing a face covering - kisses are magic if they can get through. It felt wrong on so many levels.

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We were told the time was up and you were led away, hand firmly held in case you tried to break the social distancing rules. I then had to get up and walk to the car but didn’t reach it before the tears started to fall just like that day so long ago when we had to leave the hospital ward. It was at least 20 minutes before I could drive away, breathing and heart rates returned to near normal.

The outcome of your surgery was never 100 percent certain so the six-seven hours of waiting was hard for dad and I. The phone call afterwards then the rush to be by your side - people moving in the corridors to let us pass - and the relief that everything had gone to plan. We could then both stay by your side day and night if we wanted to. Today when you were led away I knew that the rules would have to be followed so it would be six days, 23 hours and 30 minutes before I could be two metres away from you again.”

She told Alan Caskie KC, senior counsel to the inquiry, that one of the lessons learn should that “family are not the enemy.”She added: “That is how I felt, that we were the ones going to bring Covid into the care home. There was no trust.”

The inquiry continues.

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