More than 100,000 people every year are set to reap the benefits of a new hospital-visiting scheme in NHS Grampian.
The formal adoption of “Welcome Wards” means that patients are now able to set their own visiting times at hospitals in Grampian.
The health board said the move is the biggest shake up of visiting in more than a generation and follows a review that kicked off last year.
In April, NHS Grampian announced plans to roll out the scheme across its hospital after a three-month trial at Ward 102, the Geriatric Assessment Unit at ARI, proved successful.
Professor Amanda Croft, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “While we’ve always tried to be flexible about visiting, there is no denying this has been a big change. That’s why, since we announced the plans, we’ve gradually introduced it across our hospitals to give everyone time to adjust.
“We are delighted with the response it’s gotten so far and it's already making a real difference for patients, their families and carers.
"We encourage carers to participate in the care of their family member or friend while in hospital if they wish to do so and welcome carers to visit the ward as much as their family or friend would like. We feel it's important that carers are valued and recognised as equal partners in care.
"Some of the feedback has been really heartfelt and we are proud that we’ve been able to lead the way in Scotland by introducing this type of scheme.”
George Stewart, 65, from Aberdeen has been in hospital at ARI and Woodend with a back injury over the last eight weeks. He said: “I’d still rather be at home obviously but it is a lot, lot better. It’s much more relaxed and welcoming and not regimented like it was in the past.
“It’s made the biggest difference for my wife and kids. They’re able to fit coming in around their work and other commitments which is a lot easier for them. We get to spend more time together which helps put their minds at ease and lets them know I’m doing alright.
“I’ve also had a lot of friends come and see me who might not have managed to make it between the limited times there were before.
“If I’m tired or need to rest, people are able to fit around that rather than feeling like they have to come at a set time or they will miss out. It also means I’m able to see them once I’ve been able to have a rest and am fit enough to have a proper chat!”
George, who hopes to get home from the Neurological Rehabilitation Ward at Woodend Hospital later this week, added: “All in all, it’s a really positive change which makes being a patient that bit easier.”
Julie Wattie, is Nurse Manager for Emergency and Unscheduled Care based at ARI and helped lead the implementation of the scheme across Grampian.
She said: “I think it’s worked well partly because it’s a simple concept – it’s visiting tailored for each individual person. Really, it’s as straightforward as that.
“That’s a long way from what we had before. When we started looking into it last year, there really was no consistency. There was flexible, extended, limited and a host of other visiting arrangements depending which ward was concerned. It was difficult enough for the staff involved to follow, never mind for patients, carers or their families.
Julie continued: “Welcome Wards turns ‘visiting’ on its head. It recognises that we are the visitors in the lives of our patients and their families, not the other way round.
“Previous ways of doing things didn’t take proper account of the evidence that shows that recovery times are actually improved dramatically when people have the right support from their loved ones.
“What we’ve seen on the wards so far is that it allows us to have a lot more contact with families and work closer with them on the care being delivered. That has numerous benefits for everyone involved.”
Professor Croft added: “We’ve worked hard to get this right and patients, staff, carers and families were all clear that we needed to adopt a flexible approach that suited each patient’s circumstances.
“That’s why we need to stress that this isn’t 'open' visiting. Instead, it’s ‘person centred' visiting which means it’s set to suit each patient with ward staff.
“There will be times when, for clinical reasons, visitors might be asked to come back or move elsewhere, particularly in areas shared with other patients.
“I think everyone can understand that. We need visitors to work with us to do what's best for the patient and I am sure they will.
"It’s that spirit of cooperation and working together to provide the best care possible for people that’s at the heart of this change.”
A specially made video introduction to the scheme is available to view at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1QrEHaQyrc