PATIENTS in County Durham and Darlington will be able to receive visitors again from Monday as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease.

For more than a year, many patients being treated at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust have been unable to receive visitors while being looked after in hospital .

Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing, said, “Introducing restrictions on our patients receiving visitors was a very difficult decision, made in response to both very worrying Covid infection rates locally, and national guidance.

"We know this hasn’t been easy for patients and their loved ones, so we’re pleased that, from today, we’re able to begin lifting restrictions.

"Of course, we all know how quickly infection rates can change so we’ll keep a close eye on these to keep patients, our staff – and the wider community – as safe as possible."

From tomorrow, patients will be able to have one visitor per day, for up to an hour, by appointment.

Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Darlington Memorial Hospital.

This also applies to patients on children’s wards, in addition to the resident parent or carer already permitted.

Mr Scanlon added: "Keeping the numbers of people coming into our buildings to a minimum is still important so, for example, it won’t be possible for two family members to each visit for 30 minutes.

"Visits will need to be booked in advance with the ward team and we encourage visitors to have a lateral flow test just prior to visiting. Please don’t come if you have any symptoms of Covid-19."

Maternity, post-natal and neonatal teams are also relaxing some restrictions, though a negative lateral flow test will be required for people to visit.

Patients can continue to have virtual visits, using iPads and the trust is also continuing its "Stay in Touch" service, which allows relatives to email a message to be printed off for patients.

Social distancing measures are in place and face coverings are required in all public areas. Hand gel should be applied at entrances to the hospital and wards.

If visitors are bringing in personal items, it is asked they are left at reception rather than taking them onto the wards themselves.

Mr Scanlon said: "It’s really important everyone works with us and complies with these measures, social distancing in particular, to minimise the risk of infection – we all need to continue playing our part."

“We’re incredibly grateful for the continued support, patience and understanding from our local communities as we take these cautious steps forward.”