HEALTH chiefs have banned people from visiting friends and relatives in hospital in a bid to protect patients and staff from coronavirus.

The ban has been imposed by the Totton-based Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs community hospitals and mental health units across Hampshire.

But the trust says the restriction does not apply to people wanting to spend precious time with patients receiving end-of-life care.

The ban, which follows a similar move by health trusts in other parts of the UK, came into force yesterday.

Daily Echo:

Southern Health issued a statement which said: “We understand this may be upsetting and are sorry for any distress this may cause.

"However, your health, safety and wellbeing, that of our patients, service users, communities and staff remains our absolute priority.

“We encourage people to find other ways to keep in touch, like phone and video calls.

"We are working quickly to ensure that service users in our mental health sites have access to these forms of communication as soon as possible.

“Thank you for your continued support and understanding at this challenging time.

"We are working on ways to support you to keep in touch with loved ones who are inpatients and will keep you updated.”

Daily Echo:

The trust added: "Everyone should follow the expert national guidance on social distancing and self-isolation and stay at home wherever possible, to help limit the spread of coronavirus to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and our NHS.”

Southern Health runs community hospitals in Fareham, Romsey and the New Forest, plus mental health units in Calmore and Southampton.

People have taken to social media to voice their support for what they describe as the trust's "sensible" decision.

One person posted: "Tough decision but necessary to protect health and lives." Another social media user added: "Good move. Tough but needed doing."

The New Forest Birth Centre in Ashurst is run by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which has not imposed a ban but has asked people to make only "essential" visits to its sites.

The move by Southern Health follows Hampshire County Council's decision to prevent people from visiting its care homes.