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N&N to enforce visitor number policy

PUBLISHED: 09:19 26 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:27 03 July 2010

Norfolk's biggest hospital is planning a clampdown after problems caused by too many visitors at a time - some of them abusive.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will start enforcing its policy of only two visitors per patient because of concerns from staff and governors.

Norfolk's biggest hospital is planning a clampdown after problems caused by too many visitors at a time - some of them abusive.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will start enforcing its policy of only two visitors per patient because of concerns from staff and governors.

It is planning a charter to set out visiting rules and make it easier for staff to turn people away. A meeting this week heard that nurses regularly get verbal abuse from visitors if they ask them to obey the rules.

Gill Webster, a public governor representing Broadland, said there were problems with too many visitors crowding around one bed. “A neighbour of mine came in with a massive stroke and lost her speech. There were five members of her family around the bed, plus a child. Does she really want that? I also saw an elderly man who was being visited by three adults and two children who had come to see granddad.”

Director of nursing Christine Baxter said: “If they are in a bay [with other patients] it can be very disruptive. It can be difficult in terms of infection control. I think staff would like some more clarity.”

Hospital chairman David Prior said: “I asked someone very politely yesterday to put out their cigarette and got a load of abuse. I am 6ft 2in and a man - if you are a nurse on a ward I can see why it would be difficult.”

Senior sister Sheila Ginty said visitors were reluctant to listen to anyone below the rank of sister. She said it was “very difficult to stop” people walking into wards with their own hot drinks and snacks. “I have had people walking into wards with coffee and try to stop them and they have been abusive.”

Ward staff are offered a three-hour “conflict resolution” training session to help them deal with difficult situations, including abusive visitors.

Chief executive Anna Dugdale said it was difficult for ward sisters to turn visitors away, and that a charter would be an important way of empowering them.

But Alan Camina, a public governor for Norwich, said that if he was ill, he would be cheered up by seeing his grandchildren.

The hospital has already restricted visiting times to two two-hour slots in the afternoon and evening, but Tuesday's council of governors meeting heard that this had created some problems of its own.

Mrs Ginty said: “In some ways it was easier before we restructured visiting, because visitors came and went and tended not to stay for two hours.”

And Prof Camina said that visiting hours discriminated against elderly people who would not want to go out in the evening. He said: “Some elderly people don't like driving in the dark. They don't like going out in the evening. You are saying to the elderly people, you cannot come in twice but younger people can come in twice. Perhaps we should have morning visiting.”

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn asks for only two visitors per patient, but says “more visitors may be allowed at the discretion of the senior nurse in charge”. The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston also asks for a maximum of two, and the West Suffolk says the maximum is “normally” two at a time.

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