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Hospitals in the Highlands to scrap regulation visiting hours

By Tom Ramage

NHS Highland in in effect scrapping regulation visiting hours from the end of this month at the region's hospitals so that patients can benefit from more flexible arrangements.

The health board will be rolling out the initiative – part of a national strategy by NHS Scotland to provide 'person-centred care' – for all its Highland hospitals from next Thursday (July 25).

Raigmore Hospital is changing the way in which visiting hours operate from later this month.
Raigmore Hospital is changing the way in which visiting hours operate from later this month.

One of the pledges is that people will be able to visit wards as often as they and their loved ones wish to.

An NHS Highland spokeswoman said: "Rather than having visiting hours at set times, the board’s Welcome/Failte Initiative will see patients being able to ask friends, relatives and carers to visit at times that better suit everyone involved."

The general visiting times for Raigmore Hospital in Inverness are currently 2.30pm to 4.30pm and 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

The exceptions to this are the critical care and high dependency ward.

Kate Patience-Quate, the interim deputy director of nursing and initiative lead, hopes the new arrangements will get rid of all the confusion surrounding visiting patients and loved ones in hospital.

She said: “When you or a family member, friend or someone you care for is in hospital, it can be a worrying time.

“Contact with people who are close to you is important and family, friends and carers can have a key role in supporting you while in hospital and during your recovery.

“NHS Highland recognises the significance of these relationships and believes that family, friends and carers also have a role in supporting us to plan and deliver safe, effective and person-centred care.

Heidi May, the board’s director of nursing, said: “The initiative means that visiting arrangements will be flexible to meet the needs of individuals.

“We’ve worked closely with patients, their relatives, carers as well as our health and social care staff on this and we know it’s something people are really keen for us to pursue.

“There will be occasions when, for clinical reasons, visitors may be asked to come back later or move to another area of the ward for a short period.

"But I think everyone can understand that.”

The health board has produced an information booklet, promotional banners, posters and social media posts to raise awareness of the open visiting hours changes.

An NHS spokesman said current visiting restrictions on wards across Highland and Argyll and Bute vary widely.

He said: "Some wards already have what are virtually ‘open visiting hours’ while others have restrictions.

"These can include: only two visitors per patient; afternoon and early evening visiting only; and no visitors permitted during meal times, ward rounds or ward cleaning.

"The Welcome / Failte Initiative is about setting times that suit the needs, circumstances and wants of each individual patient - some may not want round the clock visiting, for instance - as well as the circumstances in the ward environment."

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