LEUCHIE House received a special virtual visit from its patron, The Princess Royal, on Monday as it celebrated reopening its respite service.

Rather than attend in person – which she did last summer – and amid the coronavirus crisis, Princess Anne made her ‘visit’ to the respite centre, near North Berwick, via video conference, where she commended staff and learned about their efforts and contribution to the NHS throughout the pandemic.

She also celebrated the charity’s reopening of its respite service on September 28 following agreement from the Scottish Government and public health officials.

This followed months of supporting the NHS by providing residential care to those who were in hospital but did not need intensive medical care.

During the visit, Princess Anne told staff and supporters: “I have worried about the lack of respite for many years, especially for those with such complex care needs.

“I’m delighted you’ve been able to reopen for respite, as several facilities across the country have still not been able to do this.

“I hope that more people, because of the way they’ve had to live together during this time, will have a better understanding of the need for respite going forward.”

Leuchie House delivers respite breaks for people living with the long-term effects of a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and stroke.

It said that the need for respite had “never been greater”.

The number of unpaid carers in Scotland has risen from 759,000 to an estimated 1.1 million since the start of the pandemic, with many carers shielding alongside their loved ones to reduce the risk of contracting and passing the virus on to them.

Mark Bevan, Leuchie’s CEO, said: “The strain on carers over the last few months has been immense. They have put their own health and wellbeing aside to protect their loved ones and are in desperate need of a break.

“We are proud to be able to open our doors again and be here for these families during their greatest hour of need.

“Like many, we have faced huge financial hurdles as a result of the pandemic, and at a time when the already great need for our service has risen dramatically across the country.

“It is only thanks to the generous support of many businesses and individuals that we can now open our doors again to provide a lifeline for these families.”

Leuchie House is an independent charity that relies on donations to remain open.