THE NHS in Gloucestershire is easing some of the restrictions around visiting hospitals in the county, including at Cirencester Hospital, as part of the next phase of COVID-19 planning.

The restrictions, which were implemented in March to limit the spread of the virus and protect patients, staff and visitors, stopped the majority of visits during the peak of the pandemic.

But as of Wednesday, a limited number of visits will now be permitted, as long as visitors adhere to specific guidelines which include wearing a face covering and maintaining two metre social distancing.

The updated restrictions will apply to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Cheltenham General Hospital and seven community hospitals in the county.

Visiting hours are restricted to 2pm to 6pm, seven days a week.

Only one visitor - a close family member or care - may visit for one hour per day.

Exceptions may be made for relatives hoping to visit on compassionate grounds.

These visitors are being asked to telephone the ward and speak to staff if they wish to visit outside the specified hours.

The trust has also put arrangements in place to support ‘virtual visiting’ and people are welcome to keep in touch with relatives in this way for the time being.

Professor Steve Hams, Director of Quality and Chief Nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our number one priority throughout the pandemic has been the health, safety and wellbeing of our patients, and we are grateful to relatives, friends and carers for respecting and understanding the visiting restrictions over the past few weeks which we know have been difficult for many.

Although we are easing the strict measures which have been in place, we are asking visitors to be cautious and to follow the new guidelines very carefully.

“We don’t impose restrictions lightly, but believe they are necessary to keep our patients, visitors and staff as safe as possible from the risk of infection.

Where possible, we continue to encourage relatives and friends to think about staying in touch with loved ones in other ways, for example, by video call; our hospital staff will be happy to help facilitate this.”