Some inpatients at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) are to be allowed a “named visitor” under refreshed rules, in order to give them greater contact with their loved ones.

The Oswestry-based hospital took the difficult but necessary decision to restrict all visiting for all patients, once again in November, except those on end of life care plans, or in other exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the Ward Manager. That was in line with national guidance in response to the covid-19 pandemic.

But the change – which comes into effect from Monday (22 March) – does not represent a return to business as usual, as visiting will still be largely limited, in order to minimise any risk of covid-19 being brought onto the hospital site.

Limited patient visiting will resume for our longer stay patients on the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries (MCSI) and Sheldon Ward, our general medicine and rehabilitation ward – with exception for shorter stay patients with exceptional needs, for example paediatric patients and those wanting to visit any patients on an end-of-life care pathway.

Exceptional circumstances could also refer to people with a learning disability or dementia, where there may be increased distress. It could also mean that allowing a visitor may be of significant benefit to that patient.

Any other relatives who feel they have exceptional circumstances as to why they should be allowed to visit will need to discuss on a case-by-case basis with the nurse-in-charge.

Patients will be allowed one named visitor (or two on the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries), and visitor(s) must book their visits with the Ward Clerk in the ward, where their loved one is staying.

Visitors will need to wear face masks at all times, and will be provided with a surgical face mask by the Trust on arrival, and must follow guidance on hand hygiene and social distancing whilst in hospital.

Stacey Keegan, Chief Nurse and Patient Safety Officer at RJAH, said: “The halt we put on visiting five months ago was the right thing to do in order to protect our patients and our staff.

“But we know that being in hospital can be a difficult time for people, and not being able to see any of their family or loved ones has made it even harder. We’ve tried to help them with technology to allow virtual contact, but nothing beats being able to talk to someone face-to-face.

“We have been monitoring the situation very closely and feel that now is the right time to allow some visitors back on site.

“It’s the right thing to do, especially for our most vulnerable patients who will really benefit from contact with their families.

“We are only allowing one named visitor for now, and two for our patients on MCSI – who have often been with us for many weeks or even months and can be a long way from home.

“Visitors will be expected to undergo screening and put on a face mask when they arrive at the Main Entrance, and to observe all social distancing guidelines.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and we hope people understand that we might have to close to visitors again if we see an increase in coronavirus cases, either within the community or within the hospital. Safety will always be our first priority.”

The changes above are in line with guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement, who are encouraging the gradual resumption of visiting in order that patients and visitors can see their families and loved ones.

Individual wards will be able to use their own discretion as to time slots they offer to visitors, though all appointments for the day must be concluded by 7pm, in order that thorough cleaning can take place.