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Flexible visiting times trialled in Scotland

Scheme supported by patients and nurses

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Hospital wards across Scotland are piloting more flexible visiting hours.

The initiative, announced today, is the first in a series of programmes to be implemented as part of Health Secretary Alex Neil’s plans to make the NHS more ‘user-friendly’.

NHS Tayside is one of five health boards to sign up to the pilot, with five wards trialling extended visiting hours of 11am to 8pm at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

It is based on feedback received as part of Mr Neil’s ‘back to the floor’ visits to hospitals across Scotland.

Speaking as he visited ward four in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Mr Neil said: “By making visiting hours fit better with modern day working patterns, it will be easier for family and friends to visit patients, which in many cases will help to speed up recovery, as support from family and friends is a crucial part of the healing process.

“It will also take some of the pressure off staff, as visitors will be spread out more throughout the day, rather than being restricted to a couple of hours.”

Visitors to five wards in Ninewells Hospital can now see patients during nine hours of each day, compared to the previous visiting times of 3pm to 8pm.

The trial is running in a number of wards including care of the elderly, acute surgical receiving unit and a neurosurgery ward for three months.

Five health boards are participating in the pilot, and each health board will specify their own arrangements.

Jean Turner, Chief Executive of Scottish Patients Association welcomed the pilot.

“The Scottish Patients Association was delighted to learn that it is the intention of the Cabinet Secretary to share work from NHS Tayside, Fife, Shetland and Dumfries and Galloway highlighting the importance of a flexible and more open approach to hospital visiting.

“This is not only beneficial to patient care but also recognises the stress and financial implications which can be created for families and carers who may have to travel considerable distances, often by public transport. They may also only be free to visit after work and therefore denied visiting a relative due to restricted visiting times,” she said.

The Royal College of Nursing also supports the scheme.

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director said: “The RCN has consistently called for more flexible hospital visiting times, so that patients' relatives can become more involved in their care. There are real benefits for patients, if that is what both they and their family want, so we support the announcement today that flexible visiting times are being piloted in a number of hospital wards.

“We know from areas such as children's care that having familiar people involved at mealtimes, for example, can make hospital stays in particular less stressful for all concerned. There is also evidence from people with dementia and their families and carers that flexible approaches to hospital visiting are important in improving the quality of care and can help make patients more comfortable.”

Health boards piloting more flexible visiting times are:

NHS Tayside
NHS Fife
NHS Forth Valley
NHS Dumfries and Galloway
Golden Jubilee National Hospital

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