Lancashire Teaching Hospitals to allow visitors again after nearly four month ban
Patients at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals will finally able to see their loved ones again as the trust has agreed to resume visits again from tomorrow, October 14.
The trust had put a stop to visitors on June 16 over worrying rising levels of Covid-19 in the area.
Covid-19 had put a strain on the NHS since the start of the pandemic, with hospitals forced to restrict visitors in order to keep patients safe and stop the virus from spreading.
Families previously spoke out about their 'heartbreaking' experiences and called on the trust to re-think its visiting policy, with many unable to see loved ones for up to months on end due to the tougher restrictions.
However, patients on the end of life care, with specialist needs or in the children's ward were permitted visitors throughout.
Now, the trust has announced it is resuming visitors for all patients from tomorrow, October 14, providing they can show a negative lateral flow test and maintain social distancing.
Visits will need to organise their trip in advance, and will be allowed to see loved ones for just one hour between either 2 and 3 pm or 6 and 7 pm, seven days a week, under the new guidance.
Donna Louise, 39, had to say an agonising goodbye to her mum Jaqueline, who was a patient in Royal Preston Hospital for five weeks after having her hernia removed.
But a lack of signal meant the mother and daughter couldn't even see each other over Facetime whilst she was in, which often left Donna "fearing the worst" and "waiting for a phone call with bad news."
Her mum has since been moved to Longridge Hospital and will remain there for as long as two months, meaning Donna could visit her mum again, but questions why this wasn't the case at Preston, as she still has to provide evidence of a negative test.
She said: "I was close to cancelling a holiday I had booked because I was so scared about leaving my mum on her own. I wasn't even allowed to take a bag of her belongings to her and couldn't see her for five weeks.
"The only thing I could do was give her a wave from the bay window in the ward. People are losing family members and it is terrible, there were times I thought I would lose my mum and didn't know if it would be too late by the time they let me see her.
"Like most, she just wanted her family around her. I hated the thought of her being on her own and wanted to be by her side every day.
"It is so important that people get to see their family members, and I know my mum really struggled with it and felt so lonely.
"It is hard enough being in hospital and unwell with strangers around you, people want familiar faces around them, even if it is just for a few minutes. It has had such a huge impact on all of us."
And happy about the news is Preston mum Laura Jayne Ward, 33, who had spent time as an inpatient at Royal Preston Hospital last year after suffering a brain haemorrhage and says she nearly died, but was coping alone and unable to see anyone.
She said: "I understand why hospitals had to have tough restrictions in place as they are still very on top of making sure people follow restrictions but mentally it doesn't make sense.
"All these people who are perfectly well and healthy can have all these freedoms in the outside world but people who are really poorly couldn't have something as simple as just seeing their child or parent. It was so lonely being in hospital by yourself.
"I think hospitals are facing their own struggles with Covid, especially with staffing levels at the moment.
"I have been diagnosed both times completely on my own and I understand it is so daunting for people. I understand why people are upset and feeling extremely vulnerable. It was heartbreaking."
A spokesperson for the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust said: "Throughout the pandemic, we have always kept our visitor policies under regular review to get the right balance between patient safety and flexibility for patients and their families.
"In response to a more stable Covid-19 position at both Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals, and a reduction in the numbers of Covid-19 positive patients, the Trust is reintroducing visiting to adult inpatient areas on a controlled basis.
"Patients will be supported to receive one visitor per day lasting a maximum of one hour between 2 pm – 3 pm or 6 pm – 7 pm. Arrangements will need to be made in advance between the ward area and the visitor.
"Ward areas will keep a list of hospital visitors’ names and contact details, to aid the NHS Test and Trace teams if contact tracing is indicated.
"In order to gain access to the ward, all visitors are requested to provide evidence of a negative rapid lateral flow test. This means testing themselves prior to attending the hospital and demonstrating the negative test before entering the ward area.
"If the above times do not suit the ward or visitor and patient’s requirements then alternative timings can be made - however, the above principles still apply.
"All staff and visitors must continue to comply with Government guidelines with regards to social distancing and hand hygiene practices in NHS settings. All visitors, unless exempt, must also wear a face covering and any PPE that the clinical area recommends.
"Other visiting arrangements such as end-of-life-care and within maternity, children and neonatal, remain the same.
"Our staff are encouraged to continue to consider any extenuating circumstances where an individualised plan of care is required that may differ from the above, however, this should be the exception.
"Social distancing measures in our workplaces remain unchanged."