Hospital patients to be asked to choose one visitor as restrictions to be eased

Dan Sanderson
Jeane Freeman said she hoped to move would bring relief to those with sick loved ones, and help boost patients' recovery - Fraser Bremner/PA

Restrictions on visiting hospital patients will be eased within a fortnight but bringing flowers, chocolates or balloons onto wards and hugging loved ones will remain banned, Scotland’s health secretary has announced.

Jeane Freeman said that from July 13, patients on non-coronavirus wards would be able to name one person who would be allowed to come and see them.

However, they will be required to follow strict rules, including wearing face coverings, maintaining two-metre distancing and making appointments before arrival.

Since lockdown, there have been severe restrictions on hospital visits, which have only been allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example if a patient was close to death. Partners of new mothers and parents of sick children have been among the few other groups able to attend.

“I know how difficult it has been for people not being able to visit loved ones in hospital during the pandemic,” Ms Freeman said. "It is one of the many sacrifices you have made and I want to thank you for that.

"Visiting has important benefits for patients health and wellbeing and I hope families across Scotland who have a loved one in hospital right now will welcome this announcement."

Visitors will also be required to give their contact details to hospital staff, so they can be easily traced in the event of any outbreak.

Guidance issued by the Scottish Government states that in future, a patient will be able to name two designated visitors, with restrictions then to be eased further if cases continue to fall.

Visits will remain restricted for those on coronavirus wards.

As of Monday night, there were 450 people in hospital in Scotland who had tested positive for coronavirus, five of whom were in intensive care. A further 14 people were in intensive care with suspected Covid-19.

Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen said that it will be some time yet before hospitals get back to normal, and that staff will continue to wear protective equipment.

But she said hospitals had learned how to live with the virus over the past 100 days of lockdown.