Royal Preston and Chorley Hospital change rules on visiting and mask-wearing - and try to ease parking pressure

Visiting arrangements for patients who have been admitted to the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals have been relaxed as part of a change to infection prevention and control rules designed to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 9:14 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 10:18 am

As of this week, adult inpatients will be allowed a maximum of two visitors at once, anytime between 2pm and 7pm. That means patients can receive multiple visits across the time period.

Since February, patients had been restricted to just one visitor each day - for a maximum one hour stay - and with a requirement for them to book in advance.

For several extended periods since the onset of the pandemic, almost all visiting has been suspended in an attempt to keep patients as safe as possible.

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Visiting at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital has been resticted to varying degrees over the two years of the pandemic to date

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Under the new system - which came into force on Monday - wards will also make “every effort” to accommodate additional visits to people receiving end of life care, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) has said.

Extended visiting will be available to those providing carer support to patients with additional needs.

Meanwhile, “virtual visiting’ - which has often been the only option even for gravely ill patients at various points since Covid struck - will continue to be facilitated for those whose relatives and friends are unable to come to see them in person, or would prefer not to. Staff will continue to help arrange phone calls, Facetime and other methods of communication.

Last month, it was reported that the health secretary, Sajid Javid, had ordered those NHS trusts across the country which were sticking to the strictest visiting rules to relax their policies in line with revised guidance issued back in March.

LTH has also this week updated its rules about mask-wearing on its premises in the wake of new national guidelines which came into effect at the start of this month.

NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powys and deputy chief nursing officer Duncan Burton wrote to NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) on 1st June to update them on refreshed Covid-19 infection prevention and control advice from the UK Health Security Agency.

While the correspondence provided local NHS organisations with practical examples of how that advice might be applied in a range of settings and scenarios - and ended the universal mask mandate across all healthcare sites, with some exceptions - it also stated that the “exact interpretation [of the guidance] will depend on…local risk assessments”.

Use of facemasks will now generally be a matter of personal choice for those visiting inpatients at the Preston and Chorley sites - with the exception of the Leyland, Rawcliffe, Ribblesdale and Sellers wards and wards 11 and 25, where they will remain a strict requirement.

Masks must also still be worn by anyone visiting a patient with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 - and by people entering an area where immunocompromised patients are being treated.

That means that there will be circumstances in which facemasks will continue to be required in outpatient departments - and people should check on arrival whether that is the case.

The trust’s revised outpatient guidelines state: “Visitors are required to comply with safety measures including wearing a surgical face mask, maintaining social distancing, handwashing and donning any appropriate PPE as identified by the clinical staff responsible for the patient’s care if [that patient is] high risk or immunocompromised.”

More generally, the new local guidance adds: “Our staff are authorised to deny access to visitors who refuse to comply with infection control requirements, including mask-wearing in areas where deemed necessary. Where visitors provide evidence of medical exemption from mask-wearing, access will be granted at the discretion of staff on duty.”

In line with the new national guidance, outpatients and people attending A&E will once again be able to have someone with them.

However, nobody is allowed to accompany a relative or friend to any part of the hospitals - nor visit someone on the wards - if they themselves are Covid-positive, have Covid-19 symptoms or generally feel unwell.

The Lancashire Post understands that patients arriving at A&E will continue to be triaged for Covid symptoms - and the requirement for them to wear a facemask will be judged accordingly.

At a meeting of the LTH board last week, chief executive Kevin McGee said that he had been receiving “a lot of correspondence from members of the public about social distancing, PPE requirements on-site and mask-wearing”.

He added: “We’re following regional and national guidance in terms of infection control processes and we’re trying to get that balance between bringing our hospitals back to normality and allowing us to push on with as much work as appropriate - but still recognising that there are infections, the pandemic is still with us and we need to be careful.

“We will continue to review our infection control processes to make sure that we’re doing the best to keep both patients and staff as safe as possible.”

It is thought that the BA4 and BA5 sub-variants of Omicron could be about to fuel a new Covid wave - the third Omicron surge - in the coming weeks.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said last week that there were “early signs of a possible increase in Covid-19 infections” in England during the week ending 2nd June. The organisation's regular survey estimated that as many as 1 in 70 people in the country had the virus in that timeframe.

As of 7th June – the latest date for which figures are available – there were 26 patients with Covid being treated by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, although not all of them will be in hospital as a direct result of the virus.

The ONS noted that there was an eight times higher risk of reinfection with Omicron - in all its forms - than there had been with the Delta variant.

It also said that between 2nd July, 2020 and 13th May, 2022, people were more likely to be reinfected if they were unvaccinated, had previously had a "milder" primary infection with a lower viral load, did not report symptoms with their first infection or were younger.

WHAT ARE RULES FOR CHILDREN’S AND MATERNITY DEPARTMENTS?

Children’s Assessment Unit, Children's Day Case Unit and Children’s Ward

Two people can be present with their child when they are being looked after on the Children’s Assessment Unit or attending the Children’s Day Case Unit. Once the child is admitted onto the main ward, two people can be present with their child during the day and one parent or guardian can stay overnight.

Parents and guardians are asked to remain by their child’s bedside as much as possible and undertake infection control procedures, including frequent handwashing. Facemasks should be worn by visitors when they are away from the immediate bed space.

Maternity Unit

Two birthing partners can be in attendance for labour and birth at the delivery suite/birth centre at all times. One named partner can provide support at all times. A second visitor may attend the maternity unit between 2pm and 7pm and any of the woman's other children are also permitted to visit at this time.

One support partner can attend all hospital outpatient appointments and all scans.

Neonatal Unit

Both parents can be present with their child. Parents and guardians are requested to remain by their baby’s cot side as much as possible and undertake infection control procedures, including frequent handwashing. Facemasks should be worn by visitors when they are away from the immediate bed space.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

During their baby’s admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, both parents can be present. Where possible, the unit will make every effort also to involve extended family, if this can be safely achieved.

Parents and guardians will be asked to follow the same rules as in the neonatal unit, outlined above.

PARKING PROBLEMS

A free park and ride shuttle bus service - introduced earlier this year to ferry patients to the Royal Preston Hospital - will continue in order to help with what Lancashire Teaching Hospitals describes as “limited” visitor parking.

The facility is located at Preston Business Centre, off Watling Street Road, and operates on weekdays between 12.15pm, when the first bus leaves for the hospital, and 4pm, when the last service sets off from the hospital back to the car park. The journey takes around five minutes.

The pick-up and drop-off point at the business centre is near the Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre entrance off Sharoe Green Lane (postcode: PR2 8DY). At the hospital, passengers will be dropped off and collected at the on-site bus stop adjacent to the main entrance.