NHS Lothian has suspended visiting across all of its hospitals in the region, which includes the East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington, from today (Wednesday) to help protect its patients and staff.

Only essential visits will be allowed under the current guidance, including those receiving end of life care, patients with mental health issues including dementia, inpatients to children’s services and those accompanying partners during childbirth.

Visiting arrangements for these groups should only take place following discussions with senior charge nurses or midwives.

Relatives who need to bring in personal items to a loved one can still do this but are expected to leave the items with ward staff and not enter the ward, the same rules apply to technological devices such as iPads and phones.

For children in adult wards, the nurse in charge will be able to advise when to visit and if any constraints are in place.

Birth partners are allowed to attend the birth of children but it is asked that it is limited to just one person, the midwife in charge will be able to advise.

The move to suspend visiting is designed to help protect patients and staff by limiting the spread of coronavirus.

Fiona Ireland, deputy director of nursing at NHS Lothian, said: “Across Lothian, Scotland and the UK, we are seeing rising levels of Covid-19 within the community.

“We have taken the difficult decision to suspend visiting across our sites to help minimise the risk of transmission, to protect patients, our staff and the wider community, and to manage the increasing pressure on our acute and community sites.”

A spokesperson for NHS Lothian added: “With more people potentially exposed to the virus, there is a real risk that visitors to our sites may be infectious, but not displaying any symptoms.

“By suspending visiting, we hope to limit the spread of Covid-19 and in doing so help to protect those individuals, including your loved ones, who may be more at risk.”

Where possible, ward staff have been contacting relatives who had previously been identified as designated visitors to let them know of the new arrangements and provide them with more information.

Ms Ireland added: “I understand that not being able to visit family members while they are in hospital may be upsetting, but I would like to assure the public that this decision has not been taken lightly.

“With higher levels of Covid-19 cases within the community, there is an increased risk that visitors could inadvertently bring Covid-19 into our hospital sites, especially if they are not showing any symptoms.

“This decision will help manage the increasing risks of Covid-19 transmission and protect the safety of your loved ones, our staff and the wider community.

“I would urge our patients and families to help us by respecting this difficult decision.”

For more information and to stay up to date with the latest advice visit the NHS Inform website.