Techies at Milton Keynes Hospital are looking into creating an app so visitors can book in advance to see loved ones on the wards.
But a meeting heard yesterday (18/3) that there will not be an immediate return to normal with numbers of visitors remaining heavily restricted.
“We are in the process of reviewing visiting at the moment,” said Dr Ian Reckless, the hospital’s medical director, at a meeting of the hospital’s council of governors.
“We’re looking at developing, potentially, a booking app which would allow more visiting but would have it in a relatively controlled manner.
“A ward might have four or five visitors on it at one point rather than the 30 or so visitors that sometimes descend in normal times.”
Dr Reckless said it was “quite likely” that changes would be made in line with the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown. The next significant date for that is April 12.
But he added that local decisions would also take into account the MK infection data.
Dr Reckless was responding to a query from hospital governor Andy Reilly, who is also a Liberal Democrat Milton Keynes councillor.
Cllr Reilly (Shenley Brook End) outlined the case of a severely disabled woman who he said had not been allowed to bring a carer into the emergency department.
Dr Reckless said he would “hope and expect” staff to have “pragmatic discussions” who was allowed in.
“Clearly in the case you referenced, that hasn’t worked and I’m very happy to take details and look into it,” he added.
He also said that the hospital has been more flexible with restrictions than many others. Exceptions are made for the relatives of dying patients, birthing partners and some carers.
The meeting was also given an update on the covid situation on the wards, where there were 32 covid positive patients compared to 235 at the peak in January. The number is dropping by about five patients every week.
Dr Reckless said the infection rate in the community is now around 70 per 100,000 people. But he compared that to last summer when an infection rate of 20 per 100,000 lead to travel bans.
The number of deaths he said had peaked at 12 in one day, with a total of 100 in the first wave and 300-350 in the second.
But he reminded the meeting that the vast majority of infected patients end up going home. And there are now treatments such as high dose steroids, which are saving lives.
The hospital’s chief executive, Professor Joe Harrison was keen to get the message across that patients needing treatment are now coming forward for other illnesses.
“The hospital is a safe place to be,” he said.
The meeting was also given an update on the impact of a national shortage in the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
Tracy Keech of the MK branch of Healthwatch said the delivery of first doses is being slowed down but second doses are still going ahead.
“The programme is not coming to a screeching halt,” she said.