'We're not there yet' - Trust to maintain visiting restrictions

ESNEFT, which manages Ipswich and Colchester hospitals has announced a change in its visiting policy

ESNEFT, which manages Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, will be allowing visitors for patients who have spent more than a week in hospital - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Hospital bosses for east Suffolk and north Essex say visiting restrictions will continue due to high Covid rates.

East Suffolk and north Essex Foundation Trust set out its position and it was "committed to reinstating" more open ward visiting but the trust was "not there yet".

Visiting is restricted, with one visitor allowed to see a patient for an hour a day if the patient has been in hospital for more than seven days.

However, the patient must not be positive for Covid-19 or be a contact of a positive case. On top of this, the visitor must prebook and be consistently the same person for each visit. 

This comes after the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) substantially reduced the opportunities for visitors on March 23 due to the prevalence of Covid-19 cases. 

Throughout the pandemic more open visiting has remained in place for end of life care, for those supporting patients with dementia or a learning disability and for parents or those in a caring role.

ESNEFT chief executive Nick Hulme

ESNEFT chief executive Nick Hulme - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Nick Hulme, ESNEFT’s chief executive said: “Quite rightly, people are asking me why we still have visiting restrictions in place when other hospitals do not,” he said.

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“But the truth is the situation from one trust to another, even if they are in the same county, is never the same.

"Community infection rates have come down in other areas quicker than they have in north Essex and east Suffolk, and therefore inpatient numbers in those areas have come down too.

“Due to the number of Covid-19 cases and contacts in our hospitals, as well as community prevalence of the virus, most of our visiting restrictions must remain in place for now.

“Our priority, as always, is to keep everyone in our hospitals as safe as possible, but we are committed to reinstating more open ward visiting as soon as we can.”

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: ESNEFT

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control said: “We are still seeing high rates of Covid-19 and people are still being admitted with the virus too, so we must continue to do all we can to stop transmission in our hospitals.

“That is why we still have visiting restrictions in place. We do appreciate and understand how difficult it is for our patients and the people who care about them, but we cannot ignore the number of patients we have with the virus and how infectious this latest variant is.

“We did manage to open some visiting for patients who have been in hospital for more than seven days before the Easter weekend and we are moving towards more open general visiting – but we’re not there yet.”