VISITING at Whiston, St Helens and Newton hospitals have been suspended to protect patients and staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has today announced that until further notice, visiting is only permitted for patients who are receiving end-of-life care, birthing partners in the maternity unit and parents or legal guardians in the children’s’ wards.

However, this must be agreed with the nurse in charge of the ward before attending the hospital.

The suspension comes after more than 27 million people – one of the largest TV audiences in UK broadcasting history – tuned in on Monday night to hear Boris Johnson announce a three-week lockdown.

The new measures at Whiston, St Helens and Newton hospitals will come into force on Wednesday, March 25.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly,” said Rowan Pritchard Jones, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s medical director.

“However, it is the most responsible step to take to help prevent transmission of the virus and keep our patients and staff safe.

“The support we have received in recent days from people across our communities has been overwhelming, and we would like to thank everyone for their cooperation and support during these challenging times.”

Only yesterday St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust announced stricter visiting restrictions at its hospitals to help stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The trust is also in the process of rearranging all non-urgent outpatient appointments and surgery.

At the time of writing, Public Health England has only confirmed six cases of COVID-19 in St Helens, with five in neighbouring Knowsley, although the true figure is likely much higher.

For more information contact the trust’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service available from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, on 0151 430 1376.

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