ONLY visits to patients who would be distressed or suffer by not seeing a family member will be permitted in hospitals in Lanarkshire from Friday.

Staff will use their professional judgement to consider when 'essential visiting' should be allowed at NHS Lanarkshire inpatient sites, including the health board's three acute hospitals, community hospitals and mental health/learning disability inpatient units.

Essential visiting was already in place at University Hospital Wishaw but has now been reintroduced due to pressure on services.

NHS Lanarkshire said the decision had been "very difficult" but their priority was to keep patients and staff as safe as possible and reduce the risk of Omicron spreading. 

The policy will be monitored and reviewed daily.

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NHS Lanarkshire nurse director Susan Friel said:  “We understand that patients in hospital are having a challenging time and want to have their family and friends around them for support.

“Unfortunately, it is our priority to protect our patients and staff as much as is possible and this is why we have made the difficult decision to limit visiting at this time.  However, this is being reviewed daily and as soon as it is safe to do so, we will be expanding visiting by prioritising access for those closest to the patient.

“We recognise that essential visits, which only permit visits to patients where not seeing a family member would cause particular distress or suffering, is not ideal but necessary for the time being.

“Anyone with questions about visiting arrangements should speak to the nurse in charge of the ward.

“We would also strongly encourage all essential visitors to carry out a Lateral Flow Test prior to visiting their loved one.

“We hope everyone will understand that this decision has been made in the best interests of patients, other visitors and our staff.”