Hospitals announce visiting suspension from New Year's Day

Ipswich Hospital Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Hospital will be amongst those not receiving visitors - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

There will be no visiting at a number of hospitals including Ipswich and Colchester from the new year following a rise in Covid infections and admissions.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) has announced from January 1 restrictions to suspend visits to general wards will come into effect. 

This will affect every hospital operated by the ESNEFT, including Colchester Hospital, Clacton Hospital, Fryatt Hospital in Harwich, Ipswich Hospital, Aldeburgh Hospital, Felixstowe Hospital and Bluebird Lodge in Ipswich.

However, exceptions are in place for visitors seeing patients in end of life care, those in formal caring roles for patients, parents of children, and maternity. 

Visits taking place on December 31 will be honoured. 

The new entrance to Colchester Hospital. Picture: HOLLY HUME

Colchester is one of the hospitals affected by ESNEFT suspending visiting - Credit: Holly Hume

Giles Thorpe, Chief Nurse at ESNEFT said: “Once again, this has been a very tough decision to make. We understand how important visiting is to our patients and their families and friends, but we must do everything we can to keep everyone safe in our hospitals.

“We have been keeping a close eye on community COVID-19 infection rates and the number of people in our hospitals with the virus and this is action we really need to take now.

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“One of the ways we can keep our staff and patients safe is to reduce the footfall on our sites, but we will keep the policy under review so we can reintroduce visiting again as quickly and as safely as we can.”

In a statement, the trust said they will be keeping the situation under regular review, and any decision will be dependent on Hospital admissions and community covid infection rates.

Mr Thorpe added: “We’d like to thank everyone in our communities for their support and understanding as we implement this change to our visiting policy once again. We appreciate your patience and will make changes as quickly as we can.”

Friends and relatives of patients can keep in touch via the Trust's letter to loved ones service, while ward teams will also support patients by facilitating phone calls with their friends and family. 

The trust asked that families and carers nominate one person to be the main contact while visiting is suspended, and that the nominated person to be the only person who calls the ward. 

This will help to reduce the large number of calls made to wards and allow more time for staff to care for patients.

Visiting is still suspended at West Suffolk Hospital due to Covid cases in the area, with limited exceptions in place.

A spokesman for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: "We know how important it is to be able to visit loved ones in hospital and we do not take this decision lightly, however it is of paramount importance that we do all we can to protect our most vulnerable patients as well as our staff.”