Yorkshire hospital trust stops visiting as Omicron cases surge across the country

A Yorkshire hospital trust has banned visitors for patients effective immediately, in response to the surge in Omicron cases.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 11:15 am
Updated Friday, 31st December 2021, 11:16 am
A sign on chemist's door in Dover, Kent, informing customers they have no lateral flow test kits available. (PA)

Visiting at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is being temporarily stopped from December 31, the organisation said in a statement.

The news comes as Ministers have been warned that they should be prepared to implement new restrictions “at pace” as the NHS is expecting to deal with a surge of Covid-19 patients in the coming weeks.

The Sheffield trust have said that end of life visits can still be arranged, and a nominated birthing partner will still be able to attend labour and visit post-natal wards under the new rules which came into force on Friday.

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Chief Nurse Chris Morley said: “Sadly the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is now spreading rapidly in the local community and whilst we have been trying to maintain some visiting because we realise how important this is to patients and relatives, unfortunately the increase in cases does now pose a greater risk of our patients acquiring the virus.

“A proportion of people with Omicron appear to have no symptoms and regrettably as a result we have seen some transmission in our hospitals which has been linked to visiting. We have to put the protection of our patients, some of whom are vulnerable or immuno-compromised, as our first priority and so we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily stop all visiting unless there are exceptional circumstances.”

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The trust is one of a number across the country that have seen staffing levels impacted by positive cases and isolation.

In total, 1,144 staff were absent for Covid-19 reasons on December 26, up from 699 on December 19, according to official figures.

Record numbers of Covid cases have been recorded in the UK in recent days, fuelled by the new variant, and more than 11,000 people in England are in hospital.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers hich represents health trusts in England, said even if extra restrictions are put in place to control the Omicron variant, it will take two weeks to reduce the hospital admission rate.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is the Government who sets the rules on restrictions, not the NHS, and we know that the Government has set a high threshold on introducing new restrictions.

“So, on that basis, trust leaders can see why the Government is arguing that, in the absence of a surge of seriously ill older patients coming into hospital, that threshold hasn’t yet been crossed.

“But we still don’t know if a surge will come, and indeed we are exactly talking about the preparations we are making for that surge right now.

“So, in terms of restrictions, I think we are in exactly the same place we’ve been for the past fortnight, which is the Government needs to be ready to introduce tighter restrictions at real speed should they be needed.”