Northumbria Healthcare to remove visitor restrictions

Dr Jeremy Rushmer
Dr Jeremy Rushmer

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is removing visitor restrictions on inpatient wards in Northumberland and North Tyneside, which had been imposed due to flu and norovirus.

The restrictions will be lifted at 9am tomorrow, with visiting returning to its previous timings.

In force across all inpatient wards across the Trust – with affected wards closed entirely to visitors – the restrictions played a vital role in the Trust being able to maintain a high level of service in tough winter conditions; and in preventing more patients becoming sick.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at the Trust, said: “We know that these restrictions have been hard on families who quite understandably want to visit relatives if they are sick and in hospital but they really have been vital to the health of our patients and staff – as well as to the relatives themselves.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been under enormous pressure this winter and have been hit hard – concurrently – by both flu and norovirus. I would like to place on record my thanks to all our staff who have gone above and beyond.

“Equally, the support and understanding we have received from the community has been fantastic and a real support to us all – we wouldn’t be where we are without it.”

The Trust cautioned that winter isn’t over, with significant pressures remaining and that it is possible that some restrictions could be re-imposed if patient safety requires it.

Dr David Tate, consultant microbiologist and director of infection prevention and control at the Trust, said: “No one is happier than I am that we can remove these restrictions. We imposed them due to genuine concerns caused by the sheer volume of flu and norovirus that was being brought into our hospitals and now able to relax them.

“We’ve kept them under constant review and re-assessed them daily – something which won’t change.”


NHS England is publishing data each week which documents how each hospital trust is coping with the winter crisis based on key indicators. Here’s how Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust coped in the week of February 5 to February 11.


The Trust’s beds were 89.4 per cent full on average, above the recommended safe limit of 85 per cent.

In hospitals where more than 85 per cent of beds are occupied, there is a greater risk of patients receiving inadequate care, being placed on an inappropriate ward for their condition, or contracting superbugs such as MRSA, according to the British Medical Association.

Occupancy rates have largely stayed the same since the previous week’s report.

Of 906 available beds, 810 were in use on average throughout the week. Of these, four were escalation beds (temporary beds set up in periods of intense pressure). These are sometimes placed in areas not usually used for hospital patients, such as gyms or day-care centres. This is largely the same as the previous week.

Bed blocking, where a patient is well enough to be discharged but unable to leave because the next stage of their care has not been organised, contributes significantly to A&E delays.

Some 156 patients had spent at least three weeks in hospital, taking up 17.2 per cent of all beds.


There were 783 arrivals by ambulance during the week.

The Trust had dealt with more emergency patients than last week, when there were 778 arrivals.

Of these, 86 waited between 30 minutes and an hour before they could be transferred to the emergency department. This was higher than the previous week’s figure of 66.

In addition, 15 patients waited longer than an hour. This was in line with the previous week’s figure.

The Department of Health says ambulance crews should be able to hand patients over to A&E staff within the 15-minute target time. Failure to meet this target increases the risk to patients and can delay ambulances from attending other emergencies.


The vomiting bug norovirus is placing additional strain on hospitals which are already struggling to find enough beds. The virus is highly contagious, so staff must close an entire ward where a patient is infected.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust closed 13 beds when the norovirus problem was at its most severe.

The previous week 16 beds were closed due to the vomiting bug.