NHS Trusts update visiting arrangements

New hospital visiting arrangements which came into effect in December 2021 have been extended in light of rapidly rising rates of COVID-19 infection across the country.

The arrangements mean that open, general visiting to adult wards is suspended. However, visits can be pre-arranged with the wards in certain circumstances, for example on compassionate grounds. Visiting may also be eased further in special circumstances and where patients would benefit from a carer being with them – for example for ongoing personal, physical and emotional care and support. This might include patients with learning disabilities, dementia or other vulnerabilities.

The NHS Trusts also ask all visitors, as well as patients attending appointments, to complete a lateral flow test prior to visiting to check their COVID-19 negative status and provide proof of this when visiting the ward . When visiting the wards, people will be required to wear a hospital supplied face mask and comply with social distancing and hand hygiene guidance, as advised by staff.

John Trevains, Director of Nursing, Therapies and Quality at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“While this is not an easy decision to take, we know that many patients, carers and families have now become used to staying in touch in different ways – perhaps by phone or social media. We will always ensure that if there is a particular need for a visit, such as on compassionate grounds and for patients with, for example, dementia, mental health conditions and learning disabilities, this will be supported on a case by case basis.”

It is important that people of all ages still attend medical appointments and patients can be reassured that, due to careful infection prevention and control procedures, transmission rates in our hospitals remain low. Those attending appointments are encouraged to attend alone whenever possible, to reduce the number of people in hospital buildings.

All visitors are reminded:

  • Do not visit healthcare facilities if you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated and have had a booster
  • Anyone feeling unwell, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated and have received their booster, should not visit
  • Please use a Lateral flow test to check that you are not COVID-19 positive before visiting and provide proof of this when visiting the ward
  • Lateral Flow tests are available from https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests or can be collected from your local pharmacy or community collection point- info here
    When visiting, please ensure you wear a hospital supplied face mask at all times
  • If you have a medical exemption for wearing a face covering, please consider whether your medical condition makes you more vulnerable to infection if visiting and use digital options where possible
  • Social distancing and hand washing remain very important everywhere – particularly in hospital
    Please limit the amount of belongings you bring with you on your visit

The updated arrangements apply to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH), Cheltenham General Hospital (CGH) and seven community hospitals in the county:

  • Cirencester
  • The Dilke (Cinderford)
  • Lydney
  • North Cotswolds (Moreton-in-Marsh)
  • Stroud
  • Tewkesbury
  • The Vale (Dursley)

They are also applicable to the county’s mental health and learning disability inpatient units:

  • Wotton Lawn (Gloucester)
  • Charlton Lane (Cheltenham)
  • Berkeley House (Stroud)
  • Laurel House (Cheltenham)
  • Honeybourne (Cheltenham)

Visiting arrangements

Adult in-patient settings (including mental health and learning disability inpatient units)

General visiting to adult wards is currently suspended.  By arrangement with the nurse-in-charge, visiting is allowed for adults who require support in special circumstances by an established carer who is a household member or a member of their support bubble as described below.

  • Patients with dementia, delirium or cognitive impairment that require support from an established carer in accordance with the principles of John’s campaign.
  • Patients with mental health needs who require support from an established carer.
  • Patients with autism or learning disabilities who require support from an established carer.

Visiting is encouraged for those receiving bad news or at the end of life. This should be limited to household members or carers. There is no time limit but limited to two individuals.

Visiting to Coronavirus Wards or to patients exposed to Coronavirus is not permitted. It is expected that the majority of those wishing to visit a patient with confirmed Coronavirus would be self-isolating. However, if any requests are made to visit patients with Coronavirus, they must come through the nurse in charge of the ward, who will take advice from the Infection Prevention & Control Team.

Maternity (only applies to Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS FT)

All those attending appointments and anyone accompanying them must wear a face covering and comply with social distancing and hand hygiene guidance as advised by staff.

Antenatal and Labour

  • One birth partner can accompany you during certain antenatal appointments, scans and maternity triage appointments
  • This accompanying person must be a household member or a member of a woman’s support bubble
  • One person may accompany you during the induction of labour for 2 hours from the start of induction and then once labour is established (they may have to leave in between)
  • One birth partner may accompany you during labour
  • By arrangement with the midwife-in-charge, those that require support in special circumstances such as mental health needs, learning disability or other support needs may be permitted additional support in labour by an established carer who is a household member or a member of their support bubble
  • In special circumstances, a professional involved in your care may also accompany the person in labour – speak to your midwife about these arrangements.

In the event that your birth partner is self-isolating or has Coronavirus, they cannot attend your appointments or labour, so we suggest that you choose an alternative partner who you prepare for this by bringing them into your support bubble or household

Postnatal visiting

  • One birth partner can visit you each day after you have given birth for a maximum of 2 hours by arrangement with the midwife-in-charge. Visiting times will be allocated by the ward.

Children’s Wards and Neonatal Intensive Care (only applies to GHNHSFT)

  • Visiting is restricted to parents, carers or guardians only and must be household members or a member of the support bubble.
  • Only 2 visitors are allowed per child at any one time. This should be the same 2 visitors on each occasion
  • No siblings or other family members should visit
  • Only 2 visitors are permitted on the neonatal ward at any one time, this should be parents or guardians only; if parents, both can visit at the same time

Accompanying someone to an Emergency Department, MIIU or other urgent care attendance

  • Patients can be accompanied in the Emergency Department or Minor Injury and Illness Unit waiting room until they have seen the triage nurse at which point the visitor will be asked to leave if required to do so.