Patients in Forth Valley’s hospitals are now able to have a designated visitor.
Until now, hospital visits during the pandemic have only been permitted in limited essential circumstances.
However from today, Monday, July 13, changes are being made in the first phase of a three part plan by NHS Forth Valley.
There are still strict guidelines that must be followed to ensure patient, staff and visitor safety and to protect progress made in suppressing the spread of Covid-19.
Patients in NHS Forth Valley hospitals can now have one designated visitor who must agree a pre-arranged 30 minute appointment time with staff to help maintain physical distancing and to avoid overcrowding in wards.
Visitors will be given a face mask to wear at the main entrance and it must be worn throughout their visit.
All visitors will also be asked to use hand sanitiser gel or to wash their hands before they enter the hospital and again when they arrive at the ward or department.
An NHS Forth Valley spokesperson said: “A maximum of three visitors will be allowed in a ward at any one time and appointments will normally last 30 minutes to help ensure all patients have the opportunity to have a visitor.
"There has been essential visits throughout the pandemic, but it’s good that this is able to be expanded now, however it still has to be carefully managed.
"So we can minimise the number of people coming in to the hospital, some restrictions have to be in place at the moment.
“While visiting has not been taking place, the staff have done a lot to try and help maintain contact between patients and their families.
"We had iPads donated to us and given out to wards with staff showing people how they could use them to stay in contact with families.
"They have been taking phone calls and passing on messages, we’ve had the comfort stones with messages on them.
"Throughout all of this the staff have been doing their best and have gone above and beyond to try and keep people in contact.
"There’s been a lot of work done to help people stay in touch, but it’s not the same as a face to face visit.”
Visitors must not visit anyone in hospital if they have symptoms suggestive of Covid-19.
Restrictions on bringing items such as gifts, flowers and balloons, remain in place and NHS Forth Valley request these are not brought in during visiting to limit the risk of transmission.
NHS Forth Valley suspended general visiting in its hospitals in March.
Since then there have been limited essential circumstances when visits have been permitted, including where a patient is reaching end-of-life, where a patient needs a birthing partner to be present, or where people with mental health issues would be caused distress if they didn’t receive the benefit of a visit.
Jeane Freeman, Scottish Health Secretary, said: “Restricting access to people in hospital has been necessary to keep patients and staff as safe as possible and it has helped us protect the capacity and resilience of NHS Scotland.
“I want to thank everyone who has followed this guidance as I know how hard it has been for patients, families and carers not to have seen their loved ones in hospital.
“The continued progress we are making in suppressing the virus has allowed us to safely, and in a series of phases, resume hospital visiting in line with clinical expert advice.
“There is a need to balance the risk of physical and psychological harm that the absence of visitors can cause, with the gradual reduction of Covid-19.
“We have worked with Health Protection Scotland to plan how we safely restore a person-centred approach to visiting in Scotland’s hospitals.
“The safety of patients, staff and visitors will continue to be our priority. I want to reassure you that we are taking these precautions so that we can safely offer the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”
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