Visiting will be suspended for three weeks in east and west Suffolk hospitals from Wednesday 27 October.
This is due to the high number of COVID-19 infections in the community, in Ipswich in particular, and the increasing number of patients with COVID-19 in both Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals.
The changes will apply at Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital, and all community hospitals in east and west Suffolk.
However, there are some exceptions and visiting will still be supported for:
- End-of-life care
- Those in formal caring roles for patients with learning disabilities or severe dementia, for example
- Parents of children
There will be no changes in these areas.
In east Suffolk
Giles Thorpe is Chief Nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals.
He said: “Our number one priority is to keep everyone – patients, visitors and staff – safe, and one of the ways we can do this is to reduce the number of people in our hospitals.
“This is not a decision we have made easily. We know how much it means to our patients to have visitors and how important visiting is to families and friends of a loved one in hospital, too. However, we have made this decision to keep all our patients and staff safe.
“Considering the rising number of COVID-19 infections across Suffolk and that there are now more people in hospital with the virus, we need to take this action now.”
Relatives of patients in east Suffolk can keep in touch with them via the Trust’s Letters to Loved Ones service.
At ESNEFT, the changes will apply at Ipswich Hospital, Felixstowe Hospital, Aldeburgh Hospital and Bluebird Lodge in Ipswich.
The situation in north east Essex is being kept under close review.
For now, the Trust’s restricted visiting policy will continue at Colchester Hospital, Clacton Hospital and Fryatt Hospital, in Harwich. One named visitor is welcome to pre-book a visiting slot to see a patient for one hour a day after they have been in hospital for 24 hours.
In west Suffolk
Chief Nurse of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Sue Wilkinson said: “We have not taken this decision lightly, as we know how much patients and relatives value visiting.
“Our priority, however, has to be keeping those vulnerable patients in our care as safe as possible, and with the high levels of COVID-19 cases in the county currently that means reducing the number of people coming into our hospitals.
“Relatives can use our dedicated helpline and video calling services to keep in touch with loved ones while they are in our care.”
Relatives of West Suffolk patients can keep updated on loved ones via a dedicated clinical helpline, by calling 01284 713155 between 10am and 6pm, seven days a week.
West Suffolk Hospital also offers a free video calling service for patients without their own digital devices.
At West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, visiting restrictions apply to patients at West Suffolk Hospital and Glastonbury Court in Bury St Edmunds, and Newmarket Community Hospital.
How long will visiting be suspended for?
The situation will be reviewed in two weeks, in line with hospital admissions and community COVID-19 infection rates.
A decision will then be made about whether to continue for the full three-week period or return to a restricted visiting policy.
Giles and Sue added: “We would like to thank everyone in advance for their patience, support and understanding. We will keep the situation under close review and will make changes as quickly and as safely as we can.”
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