Omicron: Visitors banned from Bristol hospital after trust declares ‘critical incident’

Hospitals remain in their highest stage of alert with some sites banning visitors

Visitors have been banned from hospitals in Bristol after two trusts hit by staff shortages declared ‘critical incidents’.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBWT), which runs Bristol Royal Infirmary, and North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), which runs Southmead Hospital, both declared the internal critical incidents over the New Year bank holiday weekend.

Now University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBWT) said it had taken the ‘difficult decision’ to ban visitors from adult inpatient wards at Bristol Royal Infirmary from today (Friday, January 7).

Also, from today, patients being cared for under maternity services can only select one birthing partner to be with them during their labour and the birth.

A statement on the trust’s website reads: “We understand this is difficult for patients and their loved ones, but we want to do all that we can to keep our patients and staff safe.

“Exceptions can be made on compassionate grounds, and for vulnerable patients including patients with dementia or learning disabilities, patients with a key carer, and patients receiving end-of-life care.

“These exceptions must be arranged in advance and approved by the nurse in charge on the ward. Please contact the ward to discuss and make arrangements.”

“We know it is important for our patients to keep in contact with family and friends and we will support them where possible to make telephone or video calls so they can keep in contact with their loved ones.”

The region’s health system has been in its highest state of alert, known as Opel 4, since November - reflecting the level of pressure being felt across NHS hospitals, GP practices, community and mental health services and social care.

Despite the immense pressure on hospitals, Boris Johnson this week announced there would be no further restrictions enforced in order to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

On January 5, a spokesperson for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire health and care system – the Healthier Together Partnership – said: “Our whole health and care system is extremely busy and remains in its highest state of alert.

“Both acute trusts in our area declared internal critical incidents across the New Year bank holiday weekend. This meant they were able to open up extra beds and ward space, as well as request additional staff.

“Like other areas of the country, many staff across health and care are either unwell with Covid-19 or isolating. This means our sickness rates are higher than normal.

“The most important thing the public can do to protect themselves and support local services is to get their first, second or booster Covid-19 vaccines doses.”

You can view current visitor guidance here as well visitor guidance on maternity services.