County Durham and Darlington – Hospital visiting restrictions to ease

Acute and community hospitals across County Durham and
Darlington have announced that from Tuesday 1 March, some of the
visitor restrictions re-introduced in January will be eased.

Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing, at County Durham
and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Introducing
restrictions on our patients receiving visitors was a very
difficult decision, made in response to both very worrying COVID-19
infection rates locally, and national guidance.  We know this
hasn’t been easy for patients and their loved ones, so we’re
absolutely delighted that, from today, we’re able to begin lifting
some of these restrictions. Of course, we all know how quickly
infection rates can change so we’ll keep a close eye on these to
keep patients, our staff – and the wider community – as safe as

“From Tuesday 1 March, patients will be able to have one visitor
per day, for up to an hour, by appointment, booked in advance by
the ward clerk. This will also apply to young patients on our
children’s wards, in addition to the resident parent or carer
already permitted.   Keeping the numbers of people coming
into our buildings to a minimum is still important so, for example,
it won’t be possible for two family members to each visit for 30
minutes. Visitors will also be able to use the restaurants and
coffee shops on all sites.

“Visitors will still not be allowed on COVID-19 and outbreak
wards for obvious reasons, or our emergency departments and acute
medical units where social distancing is hard to control.

“There are some exemptions to the existing visiting restrictions
which are listed below and which will continue:

  • Patients receiving end of life care
  • Patients with dementia, a learning disability or autism and
    those who require a carer
  • Where visiting will support discharge or the mental wellbeing
    of a patient this may also be arranged at the discretion of the
    ward manager/nurse in charge.

In women’s and children’s departments:

  • Women having antenatal scans will be able to be accompanied by
    their chosen support person
  • Women in labour will be able to have one birthing partner
  • A daily postnatal visit by chosen support person
  • One parent or carer will be able to accompany children in our
    emergency departments, children’s wards and neonatal units.

“In our outpatient departments we are asking that patients
please come for their appointments unaccompanied. However, there
are some exceptions to that. Patients with communication
difficulties, those that are hard of hearing or who have sight
impairment, we of course want someone with them to help keep them
safe and to ensure any messages from our clinical staff can be
understood. Exception can also continue to be made where
the appointment will involve breaking bad news – at the discretion
of medical and nursing staff.

“Visitors will notice social distancing measures in place,
including directional guidance in corridors and a maximum of two
people in lifts. Hospital grade face masks are still required in
all public areas in our hospital and are available at our
entrances. We also strongly encourage the use of hand gel
which is also available at entrances, wards and bedsides. It’s
really important everyone works with us and complies with these
measures, including social distancing, to minimise the risk of

“We also continue to ask families to leave items for patients,
other than valuables, with our reception teams, rather than taking
them to wards themselves.  Our porters are delivering items as
soon as possible on the same day.

“We’ll continue to help patients have virtual visits, using
iPads which are available on wards.

“Before visitors come to any of our hospitals we would like to
remind them of the following:

  • Visitors are encouraged to be double-vaccinated at least 14
    days prior to the visit and where possible have also had their
    COVID-19 booster vaccine
  • Visitors will be required to produce evidence of a negative
    lateral flow test undertaken on the same day, prior to the visit,
    such as a dated photograph of the test strip or screenshot from the
    NHS app. This includes resident parents who will have to undertake
    a lateral flow test every day
  • Visits can only take place by appointment with the Ward clerk
    and will be limited to one hour per patient per day.

“We will continue to monitor and consider this position to look
at the possible, safe reintroduction of all visiting and how this
would be managed. Current restrictions will remain in place while
community prevalence, hospital admissions and outbreaks remain
high. Please be kind to our colleagues when they are making
arrangements with you, they are following our guidelines to help
protect all patients.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the continued support, patience
and understanding from our local communities as we take these
cautious steps forward.”

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