For the time being at least, Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has opted to keep its’ visiting suspension in place – to continue to protect patients, staff and communities from the risk of COVID-19 and just as importantly, to help the hospital as it cautiously sets out to recover and restore some critical services.

Compassionate visiting – to be with babies, children, women in labour, other vulnerable patients and those critically ill or at the end of life continue to be enabled, and individual needs can be discussed with the ward Matron or Nurse in Charge, but general visiting will remain on hold until the Trust is satisfied it’s safe to re-open its doors completely.

We’ll keep people connected

Director of Nursing, Lynn Andrews comments: “With free Wi-Fi on the wards for phone calls, FaceTime and Skype - and our #LettersOfLove initiative - we have been able to keep people connected and our staff have helped patients get in touch with loved ones using our i-pad service.  We appreciate that communicating on-screen isn’t always the same as seeing a friend or relative in person though.  

“Our local communities have been incredibly understanding in these unprecedented circumstances - and I’d like to thank everyone for all the support they’ve shown and for their continued patience.  Although some restrictions are being lifted ‘in the outside world’ we feel it would be remiss of us to allow thousands of people back onto our hospital site just yet.  We are cautiously recovering services including urgent operations for patients diagnosed with cancer. They have been safely shielding at home, but now need to come in to hospital for their treatment and we must keep them safe at all cost.  We know that people will appreciate it’s a delicate balance right now.”

Keeping people safe

Before visiting can start again, the Trust needs to ensure its environment is completely safe for more people.  At the moment there are concerns that social distancing on site is proving difficult in places, due the building’s design. Public areas, wards, clinics and offices are being risk assessed and adapted where possible.  The Trust is also considering a one-way system and is already piloting new social distancing measures in the main entrance, where there are particular challenges with the space and queues.

Continues Lynn: “None of us want to put people at risk – especially the hundreds of patients in hospital at the moment who have tested negative for COVID-19.  Whilst we are fortunate to have seen a drop in positive Coronavirus cases in the last few days, we are alert to the possibility of another surge and want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to keep everyone on site safe.  We’ll review the position with visiting regularly.”

In line with new national guidance (issued June 5) anyone attending hospital for an appointment or visiting will also be expected to wear a facemask or face covering from June 15 and the Trust will make sure more information is available later this week, when there’s more detail from the government and Public Health England.

The hospital has adopted a host of measures to reduce footfall in the pandemic period.  Alongside the suspension of visiting, it has also embarked on virtual routine out-patient clinics, hosting these over the phone and on-screen for more than 80% of planned patient appointments.  It means that thousands of patients have still had appropriate clinical assessments, to decide the diagnostics, care and treatment they need - but without stepping foot inside the Royal, to protect them from any risk to their health.