Leaders and clinicians at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust are urging people to continue with social distancing and visiting rules, despite the wider easing of restrictions last month.
From 19 July the government relaxed a range of measures including the wearing of face masks in public. However this is not the case in hospitals where the message remains wear a face mask, wash your hands and observe social distancing.
Dr Keith Girling, Medical Director at NUH explains: “People are rightly asking why restrictions have stayed in place in hospitals. The simple answer is that we are caring for some of the most vulnerable patients, for whom catching Covid could be life threatening.
“The more people we have in our hospitals, the higher the risk to our patients and staff, particularly as we have seen rising community infection rates in recent weeks. If our staff have to self-isolate this could significantly impact our ability to deliver services. It’s also important for people to understand that we can only continue to tackle waiting list backlogs if we have intensive care beds available. If our hospitals fill up with very poorly Covid patients, as they did during the peak of the virus, our work to restart non urgent and elective services may have to be put on hold again”.
Michelle Rhodes, Chief Nurse and Director of Infection Prevention and Control at NUH adds: “Covid-19 is extremely transmissible, even more so with the new Delta variant now the main strain in our region. If we are not continuing to adhere to hands, face and space restrictions and reducing our footfall across our hospitals, we could be putting vulnerable patients and staff at risk.
“We know community infection rates have been rising in recent weeks. Although these have started to fall, we have seen an increase in Covid patients needing hospital treatment, including intensive care.
“Thankfully the vaccine means that for the vast majority of people Covid is now less serious if they do catch it and much less likely to result in admission to hospital. But for many vulnerable people, catching Covid, even if vaccinated, could mean they require hospital care. This is something we all, patients and hospital staff, want to avoid”.
Despite restrictions, staff at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital are working hard to ensure that as many patients as possible can have one visitor, where local risk assessments and safety checks allow.
This is being managed by individual wards and all visiting will still need to be arranged in advance. Families and friends will need to check visiting arrangements with the ward that their loved one is on.
Visiting restrictions at NUH apply slightly differently in the following circumstances:
- where appropriate and necessary to assist their communication and/or to meet their health, emotional, religious or spiritual care needs
- partners of women requiring support through antenatal and scan attendances, induction of labour, during labour, as well as in the postnatal period
- a parent/guardian or familiar carer/supporter/personal assistant
- patients who are critically ill
- if patients are receiving end of life care open visiting will be supported
- patients of the Children’s Hospital and Neonatal services.
The advice remains to speak directly to the relevant wards to discuss visiting and see the Trust website for more information: www.nuh.nhs.uk/visiting-arrangements-during-covid-19
Michael, whose wife recently had an operation at the Queen’s Medical Centre, has first-hand experience of how difficult visiting restrictions can be, as well as the huge benefits to receiving in-person visits: “After her operation my wife felt very isolated. Recovering meant that she was immobile for several days, with no visitors. This made her anxious and unhappy.
“I could phone the ward to ask about her, but this wasn’t the same as a visiting. Eventually a nurse asked me to visit. When I did I found a very sad lady. But within an hour of me being there she was a different person. It seemed that direct contact with me as her husband accelerated her physical recovery”.
Chief Nurse Michelle Rhodes adds: “We know how important visiting is for patients, their families and for our staff, which is why we are committing to supporting one visitor where local risk assessments permit this..
“The best advice for visitors remains to get booked in for your Covid jab if you haven’t already and self-test before and after visiting. Whilst in hospital wear a surgical face mask at all times, keep your distance from others, wash your hands, stick to local ward instructions and signage and leave the hospital promptly when your visit is over”.
On the need to take precautions Michael agrees: “Before visiting I had received both vaccine doses, and before each visit I took a lateral flow test at home which all came back negative".
Chief Nurse Michelle also makes a special plea for hospital staff: “Please be kind and courteous to our colleagues, who are following the rules to help keep people safe. We have seen an increase in violence and aggression, both verbal and physical towards our colleagues due to people being disappointed that restrictions are still in place across our hospital.
“Her Majesty the Queen recently awarded the George Cross to the NHS. If our staff are worthy of the highest honour our Monarch can bestow, then they are worthy of our respect.”
- Information on visiting restrictions and arrangements at NUH
- Book your Covid-19 vaccination here: www.nhs.uk/book-a-coronavirus-vaccination or by ringing 119.
- Local vaccination centres are offering ‘Grab A Jab’ with no need to book
- Self test kits for Covid can be ordered from www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/get-a-covid-19-test or www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests