HOSPITAL wards across Scotland are piloting extended visiting times after calls for greater flexibility from patients and their families.

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

NHS Fife, Forth Valley, Dumfries and Galloway and the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank are also taking part in the scheme.

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It comes after The Herald recently reported a call from the Scottish Government's new health tsar, Dr Jason Leitch, for hospitals to be more flexible so patients can benefit from family support.

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

It will then be assessed and NHS Tayside hopes to extend the pilot to other areas within the hospital.

Visiting times in the health board area are already flexible in some areas, including paediatrics, maternity, critical care and coronary care. The other boards involved will specify their own arrangements.

Jean Turner, chief executive of the Scottish Patients' Association, said: "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."

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, added: "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."