VISITING restrictions at hospitals across County Durham and Darlington have been eased.

People who test positive for Covid are no longer legally obliged to self-isolate under Boris Johnson’s plan.

But NHS England said its workers should continue to stay home and follow previous rules if they are infected.

From today (March 1) patients will be able to have one visitor per day, for up to an hour, by appointment, booked in advance by the ward clerk.

However, visitors will still not be allowed on Covid-19 and outbreak wards or emergency departments and acute medical units due to social distancing constraints.

Read more: Care leaders condemn decision to pay for Covid tests

Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing, at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Introducing restrictions on our patients receiving visitors was a very difficult decision, made in response to both very worrying Covid-19 infection rates locally, and national guidance. 

“We know this hasn't been easy for patients and their loved ones, so we're absolutely delighted that, from today, we're able to begin lifting some of these 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."

The Northern Echo: NHS England said its workers should continue to stay home and follow previous rules if they are infected. Picture: PANHS England said its workers should continue to stay home and follow previous rules if they are infected. Picture: PA

The exemptions to the existing visiting restrictions include:

  • Patients receiving end of life care
  • Patients with dementia, a learning disability or autism and those who require a carer
  • Where visiting will support discharge or the mental wellbeing of a patient this may also be arranged at the discretion of the ward manager/nurse in charge.

In women’s and children’s departments:

  • Women having antenatal scans will be able to be accompanied by their chosen support person
  • Women in labour will be able to have one birthing partner
  • A daily postnatal visit by chosen support person
  • One parent or carer will be able to accompany children in our emergency departments, children's wards and neonatal units.

A spokesperson for the trust added: “In our outpatient departments we are asking that patients please come for their appointments unaccompanied. However, there are some exceptions to that.

“Patients with communication difficulties, those that are hard of hearing or who have sight impairment, we of course want someone with them to help keep them safe and to ensure any messages from our clinical staff can be understood.

"Visitors will notice social distancing measures in place, including directional guidance in corridors and a maximum of two people in lifts. Hospital grade face masks are still required in all public areas in our hospital and are available at our entrances. We also strongly encourage the use of hand gel which is also available at entrances, wards and bedsides.

“It's really important everyone works with us and complies with these measures, including social distancing, to minimise the risk of infection.”

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