What does 'Freedom Day' mean for visiting hospital patients?
- Credit: Archant
Although COVID-19 restrictions were eased on Monday, hospital trusts are keeping COVID-secure measures in place to protect staff and patients.
At Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, all visitors to Addenbrooke's or The Rosie Hospital are asked to wear facemasks, patients are asked to attend appointments alone and the food court remains closed to the public.
Patients and visitors are also asked to go directly to and from their destination without visiting other areas of the hospital.
Face-to-face visits for non-COVID inpatients can be booked directly with wards, and can be booked 48 hours after someone has been admitted. Children who are admitted to hospital are allowed to have a parent staying with them the entire time, and special arrangements for end-of-life care are made on a case-by-case basis.
All visitors are encouraged to take twice weekly lateral flow tests. They must confirm their contact details for track and trace, wear a mask and maintain social distancing and handwashing.
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Visitors are still not allowed on COVID wards to minimise the risk of transmission, and visitors to other wards are encouraged to make essential visits only, and to bring refreshments with them if they need to be at the hospital for an extended period of time.
Royal Papworth Hospital is also maintaining precautions following the easing of restrictions. Every visitor is required to wear a surgical mask, which will be provided at hospital entrances, and patients and visitors must maintain social distancing and attend appointments alone.
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At East and North Herts NHS Trust, chief nurse Rachael Corser explained why COVID-19 restrictions will maintain in place at the trust's hospitals, which include the Lister in Stevenage.
She said: "I know many people, me included, who have been looking forward to the day when COVID-19 restrictions are no longer required.
"These past 18 months have been hugely challenging for everyone and I am immensely proud of all our staff who have together helped us to provide high-quality care for our patients.
"Collectively, we have made huge progress. The restrictions which have been in place, combined with the vast number of people who have had COVID-19 vaccinations, has had a positive impact on reducing the number of patients we have had in hospital with the virus when compared to the last wave.
"I'd like to thank everyone who has played their part in this effort, and it's exciting that life is beginning to return to normal.
"But in hospital we continue to provide care to vulnerable people, some who have conditions which mean they are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
"It is our top priority to keep our patients and staff safe, which in turn will help ensure we can continue to reduce how long you may have to wait to receive non-urgent treatment as we recover from the impact of the pandemic."
As with the other trusts, visitors at Lister are being asked to wear a face covering, wash or sanitise their hands regularly and maintain social distancing. To help people stay apart, one-way systems and 'footsteps' on the floor have been introduced, as well as stickers on chairs to keep distance between people who are waiting to be seen.
Visitors are allowed on the wards, with a nominated partner system in place for people using maternity services. People attending appointments are asked to attend alone, with children accompanied by one adult only.
Lister is currently not treating patients with minor injuries or illnesses, who instead are asked to call NHS 111 to determine whether they need hospital treatment - in which case they will be redirected to the New QEII in Welwyn Garden City.
Rachael added: "We know how important it is for our patients to have a visitor, and for those who are pregnant to have a partner with them during their journey.
"This will only change if COVID-19 cases continue to rise and it is no longer safe – but you can do your bit by keeping to the restrictions in place.
"The support we have had from our communities has been fantastic. Unashamedly we are now asking for more, as the pandemic is not over yet. But, together, I’m confident we will get there."