Hospital visiting hours become a postcode lottery as trusts set their own rules after Covid guide ends

Hospital visitors face a postcode lottery to find out if they can see their loved ones during treatment as several trusts are setting their own rules after Covid despite national guidelines.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last week that hospitals need a “really good clinical reason” for not allowing visitors, adding that it is “absolutely vital” not only to the patient’s well-being, but to the well-being of the patients as well. their visitors.

Amanda Pritchard, managing director of NHS England, also wrote to hospitals and clinics telling them that “all health care facilities should now start reverting to their pre-pandemic (or better) policies on hospitalization visits.”

Despite this, I analysis of visitation policies at 153 NHS hospital trusts in England revealed that there is a wide variation in rules across the country.

Some hospitals have fully returned to pre-pandemic operations while others are maintaining restrictions, including at least 20 that do not allow children under the age of 16 to visit patients in the hospital except in exceptional circumstances.

While a growing number of trusts have begun to allow long-term visits, 48 ​​of the trusts examined by I visitors admitted only if they have planned the visiting appointments in advance.

At least 23 trusts still require “named visitors” to allow people to visit hospitalized patients, which means they must be registered with the hospital and be consistent for the same patient.

According to its website, a trust only allowed one visitor per patient for half an hour per day. At least 28 trusts only allowed one-hour visits, although some trusts allowed more than one visit per day.

A review of visitation policies at 153 NHS hospital trusts in England revealed wide variation (Photo: Thomas Saunders / inewsaper)

Doctors, patients and families are divided on how to manage visitation policies in the future, with Covid infections once again on the rise.

For some hospital patients, continuing restrictions on visits have had detrimental effects on health. TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp is among those calling for the restrictions on visits to be relaxed as a result.

She recently wrote: “Having spent many days in the ICU sitting in the last month, I know that visiting can sometimes be more difficult than visiting.

“But familiar faces and voices are vital to many patients recovering from surgery.

“Hospitals that limit the visit to 1 person, 1 hour are hindering healing.”

But the data revealed that around 1.4 million people in the UK had Covid last week, a 43% increase from the week before.

Levels of the virus have risen in all four UK nations, with the increase likely caused by infections compatible with Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Friday. .

There are serious concerns that removing restrictions on hospital visits puts already vulnerable people at even greater risk.

Dr Meenal Viz, who works in an aged care ward at a London hospital, said that in her experience with patients, “seeing the family every day helps with recovery and being able to facilitate it as a doctor is really important”.

She said I“We are putting these restrictions in place for the sake of it and it is frustrating to hear my elderly patients say ‘why can’t I see my daughter or my wife?'”.

Dr. Viz does not believe that there should be a one-size-fits-all approach to restrictions on hospital visits and instead believes that “logic and reasoning” should be applied to safely manage hospital visitors.

“If you’ve done a lateral flow test before entering and have Covid vaccines that should be enough,” he said.

This was stated by a woman whose 84-year-old uncle has been hospitalized since the beginning of March I he had seen a clear deterioration in his mental health when he had not received visits for 24 days.

“He was stuck in the hospital alone, he was so confused and he forgot where he was,” said the woman, who asked not to be named.

After she was allowed limited visits, she noticed a clear improvement in her mental health. “He’s become more positive in himself,” she said.

But for others, the removal of restrictions on visits to health facilities poses a greater health risk.

Imogen Dempsey has an autoimmune condition and underlying health issues that make her clinically vulnerable.

The 43-year-old risk analyst from Colchester, Essex continues to have to protect because Covid vaccinations have not provided her with protection.

When her mother was in the hospital in February this year, restrictions were in place and she was able to visit her safely after performing a lateral flow test and wearing a high-quality mask.

But since restrictions have been relaxed on those who visit hospitals, Ms. Dempsey said she is now worried about attending hospitals for her own treatment as well.

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“We should all be able to access health facilities safely,” he said I. “And we should do everything we can in health care facilities, like families and friends, to make sure we don’t increase the risk for those who are already sick in hospital.”

Ms. Dempsey, who has a 12-year-old daughter, said she would feel “much safer” to enter hospitals if people were asked to wear high-quality masks and undergo lateral flow tests before entering.

Another family is considering opting for private treatment to secure a private hospital room rather than being placed in a general ward due to concerns over the loosening of Covid’s visiting rules.

The mother of a 16-year-old classified as clinically extremely vulnerable, who has asked to remain anonymous, is considering relocation for her 13-year-old daughter in need of hospital treatment.

She is worried that her daughter could bring Covid home to her son if she catches the virus while in the hospital.

“It has gotten to the point where most of the clinically vulnerable people I know are putting off treatment,” the mother said.

Another clinically vulnerable patient who is currently in the respiratory ward and contracted Covid during her stay said that the restrictions on visits have been very difficult for her personally.

She had to choose between her husband and two children as she was only allowed two named visitors.

But he added that the reduction in Covid mitigations such as mask use and restrictions on visits has made it “more difficult for clinically extremely vulnerable people to protect themselves.”