Visiting at Ayrshire's hospitals has again been suspended from today (Wednesday, December 15).

The health board took a similar decision back in September due to rising coronavirus cases.

Fears of the new Omicron variant in the lead up to Christmas are being cited as the reason for the suspension.

All casual visiting has been stopped for the time being, with only 'essential' visits being permitted.

The Ayrshire Maternity Unit also falls into this category.

Jennifer Wilson, Interim Nurse Director, explains: “Rising community prevalence of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, and the current demand for hospital services means we must once again restrict visiting to all our hospitals.

"In order to limit the spread and maintain the safety of all our patients and staff, we have had to make the difficult decision to suspend visiting to essential visits only.

“We know how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones, particularly at this time of year.

"We will be regularly monitoring the situation and will look forward to welcoming back visitors as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Ward staff will help to reduce this anxiety as much as possible by continuing to support patients and their loved ones to keep in touch during this time with the use of technology.

All inpatient areas have been provided with additional IT equipment to support virtual visiting.

If you would like to arrange a 'virtual visit' (video call) with a friend or family member in one of the hospitals, please contact the ward directly to organise a call.

Jennifer adds: “If you have a visiting appointment arranged at one of our hospitals from Wednesday 15 December please do not attend, as all appointments have been cancelled with immediate effect.

"We truly appreciate how difficult this will be for our patients and their families, but ask for your co-operation to keep everyone safe."

What counts as essential?

Essential visits by a maximum of two visitors will be supported in the following instances:

  • End of life care – a patient who is weeks from death. Visits should be allowed while the patient is still able to actively take part in a discussion with a loved one. When a deterioration is more sudden, visiting should be facilitated at the earliest opportunity.
  • To accompany a patient receiving bad news, such as a cancer or terminal illness diagnosis.
  • Distressed patients – if a patient is suffering from a cognitive impairment such as delirium, dementia or a learning disability and is in a distressed state, visiting will be permitted in the interest of the patient. This may apply to other conditions and will be at the discretion of staff.
  • For persons with a mental health diagnosis, visiting should be considered essential where visits not being permitted would cause significant levels of distress to the individual, or be of benefit in reducing levels of distress, and/oe when use of virtual visiting to support contact has been assessed as not appropriate or ineffective. This should be determined by staff in charge of the patient’s care
  • Children under the age of 18 years will be permitted to visit a parent.

Essential visiting in Ayrshire Maternity Unit

  • Women attending for antenatal appointments can bring one visitor for support – this includes ultrasound appointments.
  • For labour and birth women can have one birthing partner while on the labour or midwifery suite. This includes for elective surgery.
  • For induction of labour one birthing partner can accompany from admission up to 8pm on the inpatient ward.
  • During their postnatal inpatient stay women can have one visitor for a pre-booked essential visit lasting two hours.
  • For the Neonatal Unit babies are visited by one parent at any time. If both parents wish to visit this will be a one hour long slot if the unit is at full capacity. The Neonatal Unit will ensure that parents are at the centre of their baby’s daily routines and care planning so will be invited to attend around these vital points during the day.
  • At this time we are not able to accommodate children as visitors in the unit