Visiting re-introduced safely on adult inpatient wards at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is safely easing some of its visitor restrictions
A group of health professionals talking to one another

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is safely easing some of its visitor restrictions next week by introducing a booking system on its adult inpatient wards to allow patients to have precious time with their loved ones.

The Trust took the very difficult decision to temporarily suspend some visiting in September 2020 due to the rising cases of COVID-19 and an increase in patients being admitted with serious illness. However, the success of the COVID-19 vaccine programme and reduction in infection levels in the local community in recent weeks, means the Trust is now able to start re-introducing some visiting at its main hospital sites in South Tyneside and Sunderland and at its Intermediate Care and Rehabilitation (ICAR) Unit based at Houghton Primary Care Centre.

What does this mean?

From Monday (24th May), adult inpatients will be able to have one named person visit them through a bookable appointment system. Patients will be asked to nominate a family member or close friend who will then need to contact the ward between 10am and 2pm Monday to Friday to book a 45 minute visiting slot.  The Trust is urging patients and their families to nominate the same named person for the duration of their loved one’s hospital stay to minimise potential spread of COVID-19. 

Visitors will be asked to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including face mask, gloves and apron during their visit and must follow guidance around hand washing and social distancing to protect patients and staff. The Trust is also asking those visiting to test themselves for COVID-19 at home before they come into the hospital, using testing kits widely available from local pharmacies, testing sites and the Government website.

Visiting in exceptional circumstances

Visiting in exceptional circumstances, such as at end of life or to support carers who provide essential support to patients with dementia or a learning disability, will continue as it has done throughout the pandemic and will be at the discretion of the nurse in charge.

What restrictions are in place?

Restrictions remain in place across some areas of the hospitals in South Tyneside and Sunderland, including:

  • Women in labour will be able to have one birthing partner and can bring one person with them to their scan, antenatal clinic and antenatal day unit appointments.
  • One parent or carer can accompany children under 18 in the emergency departments, children’s wards and neonatal unit
  • Patients should continue to come to all outpatient appointments and Emergency Departments alone, except where a carer is required
  • Anyone entering Trust buildings must wear a face covering or face mask and maintain social distancing in all waiting areas.

The Trust will continue to provide virtual visiting via iPads for patients who do not have the means to contact family and friends and will continue to pass on messages, letters and photos through its #SendingLove scheme. Full details of the scheme can be found on the Trust website:

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said:4

“We know that visiting is really important to our patients and their families, but we cannot forget that we are still in a global pandemic and we need to take a safe and cautious approach to allowing visitors back into our hospitals.How do I find out more?

Details about visiting restrictions can be found at:

Symptoms of coronavirus include a high temperature, new continuous cough and a loss or change in your sense of taste and smell. If you experience any of these symptoms, you must isolate immediately and call 119 and arrange for a test.

If you develop symptoms your household contacts will also be required to self isolate. More information on self-isolation is available on the NHS website

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