Hospitals slashes visiting hours

A DECISION to cut four hours a day from visiting times at West Suffolk Hospital could make it “impossible” for some people to see loved ones, it was warned last night.

Dave Gooderham

A DECISION to cut four hours a day from visiting times at West Suffolk Hospital could make it “impossible” for some people to see loved ones, it was warned last night.

From June 1, visiting times at the Bury St Edmunds hospital will be restricted to just two one-hour slots a day - 2.30pm to 3.30pm, and then 7pm to 8pm.

Currently, some wards are open to visitors over a six-hour period.

Hospital bosses have defended the changes, announced yesterday, arguing they will benefit patients and ensure high standards of infection control.

Nichole Day, executive director chief nurse, said: “The new visiting hours will make it easier for our staff to give patients the right care at the right time, and ensure that patients are able to get the rest they need to recuperate.

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“It should also simplify things for visitors as there will be no confusion about when people can come to the hospital to see their friends or relatives.”

David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MP, said: “If this is about fighting MRSA then I would say the hospital is right. Saving lives and cutting infection must be the top priority.

“But if this is about cost control, rather than infection control, I think we must be told. I would like to hear the views of visitors with elderly relatives who might now find visiting their loved ones impossible.”

Former patient and Sudbury health campaigner, Francis Jackson, said: “I can see why this has happened but I think there has to be a balance struck. Maybe both time slots should be lengthened a little.

“I am concerned that there could be problems with people not being able to get to the hospital as we live in a rural area and suffer problems with public transport. I just hope there will be enough time for people at work and for those who have to use public transport.”

The only exception to the new rules will be on the orthopaedic wards where afternoon visiting will take place between 4pm and 5pm to give patients sufficient time for rehabilitation and therapy treatments.

Last year, Ipswich Hospital carried out a similar cut in an attempt in its bid to tackle infections. The hospital reduced visiting times to 3pm to 4pm and 7pm and 8pm - a significant reduction from its former 2pm to 8pm window.

The West Suffolk is also taking a tougher stance on children under 12 who “should not be routinely brought into the hospital”. Special permission must now be granted from ward managers for them to visit the unit.

A new leaflet, giving tips and advice to visitors, is being produced to coincide with the change to visiting times and will be available at the hospital's main reception.

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