VISITING restrictions for Northern Ireland’s hospitals and care homes are to be relaxed from this Friday, May 7.

Speaking during The Western Trust media briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Bob Brown, Director of Older People and Primary Care, Community Services, said: “The [Health] Minister on Friday published the revised guidance for visiting and hospitals and homes, and we will move [to follow these] from this Friday.

“There was one visitor, for one hour, once per week – we will now move to one visitor, for one hour, every day. The visitor will be one of two nominated visitors.”

Dr. Brown highlighted that in some cases, this time may be negotiated.

He said: “There will be some exceptions, whenever there is, for example, an increased risk in any area where a hospital is situated, or indeed there could be a Covid outbreak in a hospital or any other type of outbreak such as vomiting and diarrhoea or in the autumn, winter seasonal flu.

“When that happens, we may well restrict or even cease [allowing] visiting."

The Western Trust will be operating these visits on a Covid-secure, risk-assessed basis.

Other departments may have different rules, as Dr. Brown explained.

“In a Children's Ward for example, we will permit two visitors, [but] in a cancer or haematology setting, we may well not permit even one visitor, but it will depend on the individual patient situation.

“For palliative and end of life care, we may well allow for more than two visitors, but again, in an end of life situation, we're working very closely with families.”

Speaking of care home visiting, Dr. Brown said: “We're very pleased to have care home visiting open up again from this Friday.

“We will continue to work in partnership with care home owners … as long as there is no outbreak in a home, [and] always with dynamic risk-assessment, and working in phases of four weeks at a time.

“The first steps will permit two visitors, for two visits per week, for up to one hour at a time.”

A resident in a care home will now be able to go for a day trip, driving a car or to visit a family member's home without having to self-isolate on their return.

Such trips are indicated in the new guidance, for up to two trips per week.

Of such care home restrictions, Dr. Brown said: “The situation, as we have learned in the last year, can change very quickly, but it is a human right to visit; it's an important thing for families.

“It's important for residents, and we want to work to really bring that back as much as possible.”