HALTON Hospital will not be relaxing coronavirus restrictions on allowing visitors and reducing social distancing.

This comes after the UK’s public health agency advised that Covid infection control measures in hospitals should be relaxed to help the NHS tackle a record backlog of patients waiting for treatment.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recommended three ‘pragmatic’ changes that hospitals can make on social distancing, testing and cleaning practices to ease pressure on elective care services.

A reduction of physical distancing from two metres to one metre in non-emergency departments is among the recommended changes to current Covid infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.

This would put hospitals in line with World Health Organisation guidance, which currently advises one-metre physical distancing in healthcare facilities.

The agency also recommends removing the need for patients in low-risk groups to self-isolate for three days and have a negative PCR test before selected procedures.

Runcorn and Widnes World: Warrington HospitalWarrington Hospital

Enhanced cleaning should also be axed in low-risk areas and providers can revert to standard practices, the agency said.

The agency said its advice comes as more of the population is vaccinated and protected against Covid, and hopes it will ease the pressure created by the pandemic on NHS capacity over the next few months.

A record 5.6million patients are waiting for treatment due to delays caused by Covid, according to NHS England figures released earlier this month.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As ever more people benefit from the protection of our phenomenal vaccination campaign, we can now safely begin to relieve some of the most stringent infection control where they are no longer necessary to benefit patients and ease the burden on hardworking NHS staff.”

But this advice will not be followed at Halton and Warrington hospitals due to continued high rates of Covid infection in the community, according to Kimberley Salmon-Jamieson, the hospital trust’s chief nurse and deputy chief executive.

She said: “We appreciate how frustrating and upsetting it is for patients and their loved ones that hospital visiting continues to be restricted.

READ> Rise in number of new Covid cases in Halton

“However, these restrictions are in line with the current infection prevention and control measures across Cheshire and Merseyside hospitals, where the rates of Covid-19 in our communities remains a concern. 

“We are able to support visitors to ICU, the children’s ward and neonatal unit, and we also support the partners of women in labour and those having antenatal scans.

“Carers for patients with mental health issues such as dementia, a learning disability, autism or other complex conditions are also permitted where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed.

“Visitors to patients at the end of their life are of course welcomed.

“We make every effort to support visitors in special circumstances and advise anyone with concerns about a loved one in hospital to contact the ward manager to discuss in the first instance.”