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Visitor restrictions in place at hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside

The hospitals have restricted visiting. Credit: PA Images

Visiting restrictions have been introduced in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

They have been in effect at the premises, all run by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, since 9am today.

The move is in response to rising rates of norovirus in the area – including in schools and care homes.

It is hoped that by acting before the virus reaches hospitals in critical numbers a total ban on visitors – which happened last winter – can be avoided.

The trust’s interim executive director of nursing and midwifery Marion Dickson said:

Absolutely no one wants to stop people seeing their loved ones when they are in hospital; we know, often first-hand, how important it is. However, norovirus is more than just unpleasant. To many it can be harmful, to the most vulnerable it can be deadly – and the safety of our patients is our overriding priority. It spreads from person to person incredibly easily – often before the carrier starts to show symptoms.

With (infection) rates starting to rise in the wider community we are taking this step to try an avoid a repeat of last year where – in part due to us waiting too long – we had to fully close visiting to a number of wards. This is not good for patients or for our staff and we want to do all we can to minimise the risk of a reoccurrence; although we know we cannot eliminate it.

This way we preserve the wellbeing of our patients but also keep access open to people wishing to see their loved ones.

– Marion Dixon, Northumbria Healthcare

She added:

The trust is also asking for the public’s help to minimise the spread of winter illnesses and to ease the burden on NHS services.

Norovirus and flu are nasty and easily spread but – with a few simple steps – the risks can be significantly reduced,” said Dr David Tate, director of infection prevention and control and consultant microbiologist at Northumbria Healthcare.

By washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and by getting your flu jab you help yourself and those around you. It’s not widely appreciated that up to 50% of people with flu carry it with no symptoms but can still infect others. Equally, norovirus often has a 12 to 48 hour incubation period before symptoms commence but can still be spread to other people during this time.

With these steps, you not only make it safer for you and your loved ones but really help your local NHS.

– Marion Dixon, Northumbria Healthcare

The restrictions are mean no children under 12-years-old can visit at any time and visiting is restricted on all inpatient wards to between 2-3pm and 6.30-7.30pm.

In the birthing centre/maternity units – outside of those hours above – visiting is restricted to birthing partners only.

In paediatrics – also outside of those above – visiting is restricted to parents and legal guardians only.

Only one visitor per patient is permitted in the emergency department or ambulatory care at any time.

On all wards no more than two visitors can visit per patient on the ward. Anyone visiting a patient in receipt of palliative/ end of life care on one of a mental health ward can continue to visit as normal but has been asked to contact the ward beforehand.

The trust has also asked that only essential visits be made.

The restrictions affect Alnwick Infirmary, Berwick Infirmary, Blyth Community Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital, Hexham General Hospital, North Tyneside General Hospital, The Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital The Whalton Unit in Morpeth and Wansbeck General Hospital.