WHEN will visitors be allowed back in to St Mary's Hospital to see their loved ones?

That was the question put to the Isle of Wight NHS Trust at a meeting this week following a rise in complaints.

Measures were put in place at St Mary's Hospital in Newport before the first lockdown was enforced in March last year.

Only certain types of patients are allowed visitors including those most vulnerable or children.

The Isle of Wight NHS Trust is still to fully lift restrictions 18 months later, after multiple lockdowns and waves of the virus, but is following national guidance.

Questions were raised at Monday's Isle of Wight Council's health and social care meeting as to when restrictions may be lifted after frustrations had been shared with councillors.

Speaking from personal experience, Cllr Clare Mosdell said she understood the measures were in place for Covid protection but they were damaging to the mental health of patients who may not know when they are going to be discharged.

Cllr Mosdell said it was also distressing for those who want to visit unwell patients and give them support.

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Lois Howell, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust's director of governance and risk, said they were looking to introduce booked visiting slots, as had been installed at hospitals in Portsmouth.

The slow introduction of visitors back again has however been paused, Ms Holwell said, due to the rise in Covid cases in the community and staff sickness.

It was a 'risk balancing exercise', she said, and something that 'was very difficult' to open up the hospital with the various different pressures.

Ms Howell said there are ways of getting things to loved ones through a drop-off point and family liaison officers to facilitate communication but complaints about the lack of visitation and communication have increased.

See the IW NHS Trust's guidance on patients and visitors here, with ways of contacting a loved one in hospital.

The use of security guards at St Mary's front door, to control who comes in and out, was called 'unwelcoming' by Cllr Joe Robertson, who suggested clinical staff be used instead.

There were no clinical staff available to fill those positions however Ms Howell said, due to staffing struggles in other parts of the hospital, and apologised if they were intimidating.