Health chiefs are set to begin trials next week to start allowing visitors back onto the adult wards at Bedford Hospital.
A meeting also heard yesterday (Monday 14 September) that the hospital is on the brink of making gentle changes to visitor arrangement in maternity.
David Carter, the chief executive of Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Liz Lees, the chief nurse, appeared at Bedford Borough Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee to update councillors on how the hospital is coping.
Responding to a question from Cllr Hilde Hendrickx (Lib Dem, Newnham), Liz Lees said the hospital is “thinking of relaxing policies” that have seen visitors to adult patients banned during the pandemic.
But they have to show caution because there is still a “significant prevalence” of covid-19 infection in the borough and the last thing they want is for people to bring the virus into the hospital.
Individual visitors have been allowed to see children and women in labour but only in very specific circumstances.
Changes being planned include inviting partners in to see pregnancy scans at 20 weeks, and in circumstances where there are inductions in labour.
“We are looking at relaxing some of the visiting rules particularly at some of those critical times,” she said.
Unlike other parts of the country, visitors to Bedford Hospital have been allowed in to support their partners in “established labour for the delivery,” she said.
She added: “We have to be really careful – it’s not just about numbers it’s about the environment, making sure there’s adequate ventilation, making sure people are sticking to PPE, partners understanding what their roles and responsibilities are.
“The maternity team is working with the comms team on a plan for that.”
But the chief nurse added that from next week the hospital will be piloting visitors in one of the elderly care wards “to see if we can make it work.”
They are working on an appointment system for relatives, and this requires different plans for different wards.
“It sounds really easy to say but it’s quite complicated to implement,” she said.
“We want to have a sensible approach to allowing visitors into the hospital.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter