RCN wants longer hospital visiting hours

Elderly patient The Royal College of Nursing said it did not want relatives performing nurses' tasks

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Hospital visiting times should be extended so patients' relatives can become more involved in their care, the Royal College of Nursing has said.

RCN head Peter Carter said he did not want relatives performing tasks nurses were employed to carry out, but that there were "real benefits" for patients when family members helped with care.

The Department of Health said family help needed to be alongside NHS care.

But patients' groups warned such a move could be "the tip of the iceberg".

'Amazing work'

Dr Carter, the RCN's general secretary, said the college was not suggesting families be compelled to carry out any tasks.

"We know that there are real benefits for patients where relatives can get involved in care, if that is what both the patient and family want," he said.

"We know from areas such as children's care that having familiar people involved at mealtimes for example can make hospital stays in particular less stressful for all concerned.

"What we would like to see is flexibility to allow relatives to help make patients comfortable, such as extending visiting times."

Department of Health chief nursing officer Christine Beasley praised the "amazing work" work of carers and relatives and welcomed their help but added: "This must be in addition to NHS care, not instead of it.

"Nurses should spend their time caring for patients and it is important to look at the way wards are run to help ensure this happens."

"I expect all hospitals to ensure that they are providing safe, high quality nursing care because this must be at the heart of the NHS."

Training call

But Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said patient care - including helping with feeding and taking patients to the toilet - should be carried out by nurses.

"It is just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "Where will we draw the line?"

She added that some patients would not have families nearby or with the time to help out.

If there were not enough nurses to provide the care, then more nurses needed to be employed, she said.

Earlier this week, Dr Carter said the NHS had become too reliant on healthcare assistants who often end up doing more than the basic tasks they were employed to do.

He recommended better training and regulation of health care assistants.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    As a trained nurse i have 12-14 patients to care for, with the help of one HCA. I regularly struggle to provide the care I'd like for these patients due to the overwhelming workload. We have to prioritise to maintain basic patient safety, and this idea sounds suspiciously like an excuse to ignore dangerously poor staffing levels by using relatives to do what we should have the time to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    When visiting my mother in law at the Harrogate District Hospital many times this year my wife was allowed to stay for as long as she wished after visiting times. Thank you, it made a big difference to her well-being.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    In most hospitals the visiting hours are strictly limited and exceptions given depending on circumstance by the staff nurses/sister in charge. Having extended/unlimited visiting is debilitating to patients as people have mentioned already. I recall 1 patient who had upwards of 40 visitors in his room. As a nurse, I'm very much opposed to unlimited visiting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Bad idea, RCN! My wife is an ICU nurse, and visiting hours are 7am-7pm. Nurses are constantly answering family members' buzzing the door to be let in. And once they're in, they're all over the place, constantly at the desk, questioning, demanding, taking nurses away from their other patients, and their charting. Also, the patients don't get needed rest. Bad idea for all concerned!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I was miserable in hospital and very lonely, I asked to be discharged earlier than they wanted because of this. Clearly very sick people need more rest time, but for many hospital is boring and intimidating, and having family and friends around helps the healing. Longer visiting time is not unfair on people who have no one to visit them - quite often visitors chat with more than their relative.


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