A HEALTH board in Scotland has reintroduced essential-visits-only at all of its hospitals and inpatient services.

NHS Lanarkshire said it has enforced the restriction due to pressures on staff amid a surge in Covid cases and staff absences.

Earlier this week, the health board announced all GP practices will move to “managed suspension of services”, which means doctors will only focus on the most urgent and time-critical care, a move Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie described as “unprecedented”.

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Essential visits, according to the health board, only permit visits to patients where not seeing a family member would “cause particular distress or suffering”.

The restriction is already in place at University Hospital Wishaw, but it will now, as of Friday, apply to the region’s remaining hospitals: University Hospital Hairmyres and University Hospital Monklands, its community hospitals and all mental health/learning disability inpatient units.

NHS Lanarkshire nurse director, Susan Friel, said the decision has been made to protect patients and staff, and staff will use their professional judgement to consider when visiting is allowed.

“We understand that patients in hospital are having a challenging time and want to have their family and friends around them for support,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it is our priority to protect our patients and staff as much as is possible and this is why we have made the difficult decision to limit visiting at this time.”

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She said the restriction is being reviewed daily and, as soon as the health board decides it is safe, it will expand visiting time by prioritising access for those who are closest to the patient.

“We recognise that essential visits, which only permit visits to patients where not seeing a family member would cause particular distress or suffering, is not ideal but necessary for the time being.

“We hope everyone will understand that this decision has been made in the best interests of patients, other visitors and our staff.”