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Solo visitors will be allowed to visit patients at some Suffolk hospitals again, including Ipswich, Felixstowe and Aldeburgh, as visiting still suspended at West Suffolk Hospital

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Individual visitors will be allowed to see patients at a number of Suffolk hospitals following a period of suspension due to a rise in Covid cases.

Patients in East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust hospitals, which include Ipswich Hospital, Aldeburgh Hospital, Felixstowe Hospital and Bluebird Lodge in Ipswich, will be able to have one visitor only during their stay.

From Monday, visitors will also have to pre-book visiting slots at these hospitals and will be able to see patients for one hour a day.

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: Google Maps
Ipswich Hospital. Picture: Google Maps

The trust also recommends that all visitors have received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, that they take a rapid test before they come and show evidence of a negative test to the ward team, and that they stay at home if they get any symptoms or feel generally unwell.

Giles Thorpe, Chief Nurse at ESNEFT, said: “We’re very happy that we can safely welcome some visitors back to our hospitals, but we now need our communities help to keep visiting open.

“Please take up the offer of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the booster if you’re eligible, take a lateral flow test before you visit our wards and stay at home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or you’re unwell in any way.

“The consequence of this advice not being followed is that we will have to close down visiting again over the Christmas and New Year period. We really do not want to do that as we know how important visiting is to patients and their loved ones, especially at this time of year.

“However, COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and while we are still seeing hospitalisations and deaths locally, we need to do all we can to keep our patients, visitors and staff safe.

“We’ll continue to keep our visiting arrangements under close review, including monitoring local rates of COVID-19 infection, and we won’t hesitate to make changes again if we need to.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing support to help us limit the spread of Covid-19 and other winter illnesses in our hospitals.”

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust have continued their suspension of visitors that began in October. Their policy means visiting is only allowed for end of life care, carers of patients with learning disabilities or dementia, parents of children or maternity.

Restrictions apply to patients at West Suffolk Hospital and Glastonbury Court in Bury St Edmunds, and Newmarket Community Hospital.

The situation will be reviewed early next week to see if visitors can be accepted back onto wards.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust chief nurse Sue Wilkinson said: "We have not taken this decision lightly, as we know how much patients and relatives value visiting.

"Our priority, however, has to be keeping those vulnerable patients in our care as safe as possible, and with the high levels of COVID-19 cases in the county currently that means reducing the number of people coming into our hospitals.

"Relatives can use our dedicated helpline and video calling services to keep in touch with loved ones while they are in our care."

Relatives of West Suffolk patients can keep updated on loved ones via a dedicated clinical helpline, by calling 01284 713155 between 10am and 6pm, seven days a week.

West Suffolk Hospital also offers a free video calling service for patients without their own digital devices, between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.