Visiting Arrangements

Acute and Community Hospitals

One of two nominated people can visit every day where this can be accommodated within COVID-19 secure environments. Prior arrangement with the ward nurse in charge is necessary.

Where the person visiting requires assistance, they should inform the ward at the time of booking and discuss with the nurse in charge.

ICU

One of two nominated people can visit every day where this can be accommodated.   Prior arrangement with ward nurse in charge is essential

Maternity 

We would request that your partner/visitor take a Lateral Flow Test prior to attendance at hospitals. Please do not attend if the test is positive and follow Department of Health guidance.

Face coverings are required within a healthcare setting.

This applies to all maternity outpatients services within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, including clinics within the community, Causeway Hospital and Antrim Area Hospital to reduce risk and better protect our expectant parents and babies within the unit.

Outpatients 

You may be accompanied by a partner or nominated other to all Maternity outpatients appointments:

– Pregnancy related appointments and ultrasound scans

– Attendances to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit

– Attendances to the Fetal Maternal Assessment Unit

*Your partner may be asked to wait in the car/outside the hospital until your appointment to keep footfall to a minimum.

Labour and Birth

A chosen birth partner will be facilitated to accompany you for induction of labour, duration of labour and birth and for up to three hours after the birth. Unfortunately, the Induction of Labour Bay does not support 2m social distancing when fully occupied however, your individual circumstances and the number of women within the bay will be considered at the time.

Inpatient Maternity Services 

Visiting can be facilitated on the antenatal and postnatal wards, with the following principles in place:

  • Twice daily visits from one of two nominated individuals, no children (from up to two households) can be permitted, where this can be accommodated within COVID secure environments.
  • If your birth partner/ nominated other becomes unwell or has symptoms of COVID-19, another person can be nominated
  • Visits to wards should be for a maximum duration of 2 hours.
  • Please check with staff on the ward regarding designated visiting times.
  • Alternatives, for example, outdoor visiting, virtual visits, should continue to be made available.

This guidance is subject to change and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Paediatric and Neonatal 

Any child admitted can be accompanied by one parent or caregiver at all times for the duration of the stay.

Mental Health and Learning Disability

Two nominated visitors from the same household can be accommodated to visit every other day or more where deemed necessary to support the mental health and wellbeing of the patient. Prior arrangement with the ward staff is essential.

Emergency Departments, X-Ray and Day Procedure Units 

In order to maintain a COVID-19 secure environment and to prevent overcrowding, patients can only be accompanied where the patient is unable to understand or communicate with staff or is critically ill.

Outpatient Departments 

Patients may only be accompanied where the patient is unable to understand or communicate with staff or is critically ill.

Cancer and Renal Unit 

Patients may only be accompanied where the patient is unable to understand or communicate with staff or is critically ill

We would encourage all visitors to wear a face covering and undertake LFD self-testing (twice a week, every 3 to 4 days) prior to visiting, not only to protect themselves but also importantly to help protect their loved ones who are currently in hospital. Please read more about availability of Lateral Flow Testing for hospital visitors.

All visiting is by appointment only and visitors must contact the ward nurse in charge to arrange the visit. Please be aware that wards will be experiencing high volume of calls and we would ask the public to be patient with staff. Visitors will be asked to give contact information for track and trace and adhere to all COVID-19 guidance.

It is recognised that Ministers of Faith/Religion perform a valuable role in providing pastoral support to some patients.  Such visits can be facilitated however Ministers should contact the relevant ward in advance to agree a time.  We would also ask that they visit only the patient of concern and not visit a number of patients during their attendance at any Trust facility.  Where there are specific concerns regarding clinically extremely vulnerable patients, local incidents of infection outbreak in a particular setting and / or evidence of rapidly increasing community transmission or outbreaks, there may be occasions when access for Ministers may have to be limited. In these circumstances, Ministers will be required to liaise with the nurse in charge of the ward to agree how the religious and pastoral needs of those patients can be met.

Our first priority must continue to be to limit exposure to known Covid-19 therefore local decisions will be required regarding maintaining a COVID-19 secure environment.

Virtual visiting is still the first preference and will be accommodated.

Anyone showing or experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or any other infection should not visit, even if these symptoms are mild and unconfirmed. Similarly, those who have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID should not visit.

In these circumstances the individual should remain at home and follow the latest public health advice on self-isolation and testing.

Care Homes

Where the home is not in an outbreak, visiting for residents should be arranged using well-ventilated designated rooms/visiting pods, with additional visiting arranged as outdoor visits, window visits and virtually supported visits.  Where visits can only take place in a resident’s own room, this should be arranged where this can be accommodated within social distancing.  End of life visiting can take place in a resident’s own room as agreed with the care home manager.  Please refer to Guidance for full details, including deciding the frequency/duration of visits, visiting in an outbreak situation, and care partner arrangements.

Since safe management of visiting remains crucial, it may be necessary to continue to restrict visiting times to certain periods within the day, so the timing and duration of visits should always be agreed with the person in charge.

Alternatives, for example, outdoor visiting, virtual visits, should continue to be made available.

Guidance

Guidance around care home visiting has been kept under constant review throughout the pandemic. As the NI Executive began to publish plans for the general easement of restrictions, the Department of Health commissioned the Public Health Agency (PHA) to develop guidance to support a safe approach to increased visiting within care homes. ‘Visiting with Care – A Pathway’ was implemented on 7 May 2021. The priority continues to be to limit the spread and instances of COVID-19 in care home settings, but to balance this with enabling visiting to take place with some mitigations.

‘Visiting with Care – A Pathway’, applicable to all care homes in Northern Ireland
COVID-19: Visiting in Care Settings in Northern Ireland

The document clearly sets out that everyone plays a part in ensuring that the visiting pathway can be safely implemented. Residents, visitors and care home staff should be aware of their responsibilities and work together to ensure that visiting can proceed while ensuring that the risk to others in the home is minimised.  From 20 October 2021, we entered the phase of ‘Gradual Easing’. Some of the key changes to visiting include:

  1. Where social distancing guidelines can still be met, up to four visitors (including children) from no more than two households can now attend per visit.
  2. Any person who wishes to arrange a visit with a resident is now able to do this by contacting the care home. All visit requests continue to be agreed with residents.
  3. All visits continue to be facilitated via booking systems within the care homes. Please contact the home directly to arrange this. By continuing to use a booking system, the homes can make appropriate arrangements for the safe management of visits at this time.
  4. The wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) continues to be required if you are visiting the care home. In line with the updated guidance, hand washing can now replace the need for wearing of gloves.
  5. Close physical contact has now been extended to include ‘brief’ hugging. Effective hand washing and the wearing of facemasks/aprons remains at this time.
  6. All visits continue to be limited to one hour with a maximum of four visits per week.
  7. Residents remain able to resume visits outside of the home, ensuring that the current restrictions for the general public are adhered to. Decisions on facilitating visits outside of the home continue to be made following appropriate risk assessment by the care home.

Please note that there are currently no changes to the 14 day isolation period for all residents when they initially transfer to our homes.

From June 2021, all asymptomatic visitors to care homes have been encouraged to participate in LFD self-testing. LFD Self Testing provides an additional support to help us safely maintain visiting within our care homes. Care staff can provide all visitors with further information and guidance in relation to this when booking a visit.

Guidelines

Any visitors permitted access must maintain social distancing of 2m, attend to good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Visitors, and those attending appointments, are also asked to wear their face covering at all times. No access will be permitted without a face covering.

Children under the age of 16 will not be permitted to visit hospitals. In the event of exceptional circumstances, this can be discussed with the person in charge.

Visitors should stay with the person they are visiting throughout the visit, minimising movement around the hospital/care home and maintaining social distancing from other patients/residents and staff to reduce risks of infection spread.

All visitors must adhere to hand hygiene on entering and leaving wards areas and the hospital site.

Dropping off/picking up patient property

From Monday 16 May 2022, the Drop off / Pick up service for patients belongings will no longer be available on the Antrim Area Hospital site.  If your loved one is being cared for on a ward with no visiting, please bring belongings to the door of the ward where someone from the ward team will accept the items and return any for washing as appropriate. Please continue to seal the bag and clearly mark with your loved ones name.

Virtual Visiting

The Trust has produced a helpful guide to assist you with virtual visits.

Related Links

Regional Guidance: Visiting in Care Settings in Northern Ireland

18th May 2022

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