Ward restrictions imposed to keep norovirus at bay
A belated Happy New Year to you all, and I hope that you had a pleasant and restful festive period.
I also hope you were in good health over the holidays.
However, as is common at this time of the year, there are lots of bugs going around and I’m sure that many of you, or your friends or family members, will have been affected by one of these bugs to some extent.
For my first column of 2019, I would like to update you on our partial visitor restrictions we have in place across Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
I will also let you know about an addition at Berwick Infirmary, which is improving patients’ experiences.
And I will remind people about the opportunity to get more involved in their local NHS.
As you may already be aware and may have seen in the local news, in mid-December we introduced partial visitor restrictions in all of our hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside.
This move was in response to rising rates of norovirus – the sickness and diarrhoea bug – in the community, including in schools and care homes.
At the time of writing, these restrictions remain in place.
We took this decision after very careful consideration to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.
And it was based on the hard lessons that we learnt as a trust last year.
You may recall that last winter we needed to impose a total ban on visiting in our hospitals. This was because of the high number of cases of infection that there were in the community and in our hospitals.
We want to avoid a repeat of that because no one wants to stop people from seeing their loved ones.
By introducing the partial restrictions, it is hoped that this step won’t be necessary.
The partial restrictions at Berwick Infirmary mean that visiting on our ward is restricted to 2pm to 3pm and 6.30pm to 7.30pm daily.
There are to be no more than two people per patient allowed to visit at any time, and children under 12 are not permitted to visit at all.
So far, the restrictions seem to be working well and I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and co-operation.
It has been a change for us at Berwick Infirmary, given that we previously had ‘open visiting’, where friends and relatives were able to visit at any time, except during meal times.
However, I’m afraid that it is a necessary move to try to protect our patients, the majority of whom are elderly and vulnerable.
These restrictions do not apply if you are visiting a patient who is receiving palliative/end of life care. However, I would urge you to still liaise with the nursing staff and contact the ward before you travel.
All visitors are urged to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering and on leaving the ward.
In any case, please do not come onto the ward if you have had symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting in the last 48 hours.
The amount of norovirus and flu we had last year was unprecedented and while we are not at those levels this year, at present, we must take precautions as far as possible to prevent this from happening.
When there is a change to our visitor restrictions, we will let people know and our staff will share this message with patients and their relatives.
Aside from infection control issues, we’re always trying to improve the hospital environment for our patients.
We also carry out a range of activities that help our patients to stay active, both physically and mentally.
In this way we help to brighten up their stays with us and give them some normality in their daily routines as far as possible.
This is particularly important for our many patients with dementia.
Last year we installed raised vegetable beds, which are accessible to wheelchair users.
These have been situated on our patio, next to the ward’s day room, with a little help from our friends to support our efforts to do this.
Thank you to Allan Brothers, which donated the wood for the beds, and to Michael Strachan, the husband of Susan, one of our domestics, who installed these.
Thanks, too, to MKM, which donated the soil, and to all of the staff who helped to get this gardening project off the ground.
It’s made good use of the space and during the better weather it was a real focus point, with many patients going outside to enjoy it.
Even those people who weren’t well enough to go outdoors were still able to feel involved in the scheme by watching proceedings from the window.
It is a great way for our patients to get a little fresh air in a safe environment.
And it is brilliant for those who have an interest in gardening to be able to keep this up while they are in hospital.
For some of our patients, it also takes them back to days gone by, bringing back positive memories for them, which can help to boost their mood.
We look forward to using the raised beds to their full potential in the spring and summer.
We will continue to do all we can to make our patients’ stays as good as they can be.
We’ve also received support from another local company recently.
Staff from Asda in Tweedmouth brought us toiletries for our patients so thank you to them.
In my last column in October, I mentioned that we were looking to recruit more members to our trust in the Berwick area.
Thanks to those of you who have joined and I would urge anyone with an interest in their local NHS to do so. Anyone can join us as a member of our trust and ensure that your area’s views are heard.
It’s all part of being a foundation trust as we are accountable to the people we serve in Northumberland and North Tyneside and have greater freedoms to plan local services and respond to the needs and wishes of our communities.
To join us as a member, visit www.northumbria.nhs.uk/members and complete the online application form, or call our foundation membership team on 0191 203 1296.
Before I sign off, I wanted to briefly mention that we’re making good progress on our plans for a new stand-alone hospital in Berwick and are currently examining a wide range of options for a site.
Each option under consideration focusses on getting the best possible outcome for our patients.
Commercial negotiations have started. I’m sure you will appreciate that we can’t say any more about that at present. However, as soon as we can, we will.
As a final plea from me, please use services wisely this winter and make use of pharmacies and self-care where appropriate to help the NHS run as smoothly as possible.
The weather so far has been kind, let’s hope it stays that way.