The University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UHSussex), which operates, St Richard’s, Worthing, Southlands, Royal Sussex County and Princess Royal Hospitals is asking local people to support its one patient, one visitor policy to help keep patients safe.
With Covid cases in east and west Sussex rising by nearly 50% in the last week, hospital admissions of patients with the virus are also increasing providing more challenges for the NHS across the country.
UHSussex is no exception and is one of a number of Trusts also having to deal with unexpected issues inside their hospital from some visitors who refuse to wear masks, are aggressive in behaviour or arrive unannounced in pairs, or groups of three – in breach of hospital rules that are in place to keep patients, staff and visitors safe.
The policy, which has been place for several months as a response to the pandemic, allows for one visitor per patient for one hour a day, which must be pre-booked. There are exceptions for maternity and neonatal wards, when visiting children or for visiting patients receiving end of life care.
Each visit can be booked by contacting the ward where the patient is receiving care.
Maggie Davies, Chief Nurse, said: “There is still a pandemic going on and that is why we must have restrictions in our hospitals to help protect patients, staff and visitors.
“The means we can only have one person visiting at any time for a maximum of one hour and this must be pre-booked. And anyone inside our hospitals must wear a face mask – and that includes visitors.
“It is really important that people who are coming to our hospitals make sure that they are aware of our visitor policy. It will ensure that they are not disappointed when they arrive and it will also really help our staff. Sometimes visitors will arrive in pairs or in small groups to see a friend or relative and are then told that this is not allowed, and this has then led to members of our staff being on the receiving end of aggressive and threatening behaviour, which is completely unacceptable.
“Other times visitors will complain about wearing a face mask. Again this can lead to really unpleasant behaviour and attitude that our staff really shouldn’t have to deal with.”
Maggie added: “We know that coming into a hospital can be a stressful time for visitors, but let’s all help one another and make it easier for everyone. That means booking a visit, coming in alone and always wearing a fluid resistant surgical mask. As we learn to live with the virus, we must remember it is still with us and we have to do all we can to help keep each other safe.”
The Trust also asked members of the public to think about where they should be treated, if they find themselves unwell or injured.
“Our patients are our always our main priority and it is important they receive the right care at the right time, in the right place. Hospitals across the country are really busy at the moment, and A&E is for very serious illnesses or injury, so people should only come to A&E when it is absolutely necessary.
“We have to prioritise patients who need the most urgent care, which can lead to a lot of waiting around for people who don’t really need to be there.
“Where possible, people should contact their GP, their pharmacist, or call NHS 111, to discuss their complaint and how it will be best treated,” added Maggie.