Leaders at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have taken what they described as “the difficult but important” decision to suspend visiting to all adult inpatient wards at its hospitals due to rising cases of COVID-19.

The STDH A&E EntranceThe number of confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions at the Trust has risen quickly over the past few days and although the total number of cases in the Trust’s hospitals (56) is not as high as numbers experienced during previous waves of the pandemic, Trust leaders are concerned at the rate at which hospital numbers have increased.

The number of cases in both local communities also remains high.

On New Year’s Day visiting to all adult inpatient wards at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital was temporarily stopped to protect both staff and patients, many of whom are vulnerable and at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

This also includes visitors to the Trust’s Intermediate Care and Rehabilitation (ICAR) Unit based at Houghton Primary Care Centre.

The Trust is advising that visiting will not be allowed at this time, except in the following circumstances. Where visiting is permitted PPE must be worn:

  • Patients receiving end of life care (visiting arrangements will be at the discretion of the nurse in charge)
  • Women in labour will be able to have one birthing partner and can bring one person with them to their scan appointments only
  • One parent or carer will be able to accompany children in our children’s emergency department, children’s wards and neonatal unit
  • Patients with dementia, a learning disability or autism and those who require a carer will be able to have one person accompanying them.

Anyone attending an outpatient appointment and those coming into the Emergency Departments at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital should attend alone and are reminded that they will need to wear a face mask, practice good hand hygiene and maintain social distancing at all times.

The Trust will continue to provide virtual visiting via iPads for patients who do not have the means to contact family and friends and will continue to pass on messages, letters and photos through its #SendingLove scheme.

Full details of the scheme can be found on the Trust website www.stsft.nhs.uk.

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Due to a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 admissions in our hospitals, we have had to make the difficult decision to suspend visiting to all of our adult inpatient wards.

“We know how important visiting is, so we understand how frustrating this news will be for our patients and their loved ones.

“The new Omicron variant is highly transmissible and for the safety of our patients and our staff, we need to take this step and minimise the risk of the virus spreading across our hospital sites.

“I urge everyone to continue to be vigilant. If you haven’t had your COVID-19 vaccine I would urge you to do so – the vaccine is the best form of defence we have.

“Please continue to wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or more, adhere to social distancing wherever possible and continue to wear face masks or coverings in public to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.”

Symptoms of coronavirus include a high temperature, new continuous cough and a loss or change in your sense of taste and smell. If you experience any of these symptoms, you must isolate immediately and call 119 and arrange for a test.

If you develop symptoms your household contacts will also be required to self-isolate.

More information on self-isolation is available on the NHS website.