Published on: 1 December 2020

Health bosses at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust are appealing to patients and their families to keep following the vital rules around COVID-19.

Since September and the start of the second wave, the Trust took the difficult decision to temporarily suspend visiting across all of its adult inpatient wards*.  The move was taken to protect staff and patients, many of whom are vulnerable and at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

The Trust is now increasingly concerned at the number of family members coming onto its hospital sites, without wearing a face covering, to drop off personal items for their loved ones, as well as the number of patients leaving wards to meet family members outside who are not adhering to social distancing rules.  

Julie Russell, is a senior nurse in the Trust and manager in the Emergency Department at South Tyneside District Hospital.  She said: “We know this is an incredibly difficult time for everyone and especially if you have a loved one in hospital but that doesn’t mean we can forget the rules.  They are just as important now as they were at the start of the pandemic so please don’t become complacent and risk spreading COVID-19.

“We are all desperate to have a cuddle with our loved ones, especially if they are poorly and in hospital, but we simply can’t.  The national rules are in place for a reason and they apply to us all.  If you are confirmed COVID-19 positive or have been told by NHS Test and Trace to stay at home and self-isolate then please #DoYourBit and stay away from our hospitals.”  

Lee Whitfield, Associate Divisional Director, Medicine & Emergency Care at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our staff have worked tirelessly to keep everyone safe throughout the pandemic, but we need patients and the public to play their part too.  

“Unfortunately we’ve had recent examples of inpatients leaving ward areas to meet loved ones at the hospital door and, equally, instances where visitors have come into the hospital to drop things off without wearing appropriate PPE protection when they themselves are actually confirmed COVID-19 positive.  

“This is really difficult for our busy frontline staff to police and, sadly, can also often result in abuse.  We’re making this public appeal today to encourage everyone to really think about what they are doing and keep doing their bit to keep us all safe.

“If you do need to drop something off for your loved one please arrange this with the ward manager and use the Trust’s virtual visiting to safely stay in touch.” 

The Trust is urging people to keep following the government guidance around staying at home, wearing face coverings, washing hands and social distancing.  Lee added: “It is more vital than ever that we pull together to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable people and of course our NHS services as we head into the busy winter period.”

The Trust has a number of measures in place to help people stay connected with loved ones in hospital including virtual visiting with iPads available on all wards and a #SendingLove scheme which allows family and friends to send messages and photos into the Trust to be hand delivered to patients every day. Full details of the scheme can be found on the Trust website