Children under 12 are being banned from visiting patients in nine hospitals as part of a raft of restrictions to fight rising rates of norovirus.
Northumbria Healthcare said the restrictions should stop the illness reaching “critical numbers”.
In January, a number of wards were closed completely to visitors because of the virus.
Health chiefs said the stomach bug is “more than just unpleasant” and can be deadly to vulnerable patients.
The restrictions, which come into force at 09:00 GMT on Friday, are:
- No visiting children under 12 at any time
- Visiting is restricted on all inpatient wards at all sites to between 14:00 to 15:00 and 18:30 to 19:30
- In birthing centre and maternity units – outside of the hours above – visiting is restricted to birthing partners only
- In paediatrics – outside of the hours above – visiting is restricted to parents or legal guardians only
- Only one visitor per patient is permitted in the emergency department or ambulatory care at any time
- No more than two visitors per patient on any ward at any time
In December last year, visitors were banned from the nine hospitals in order to contain a norovirus outbreak.
Marion Dickson, the trust’s interim executive director of nursing and midwifery, said: “This is a decision we have taken after very careful consideration and is based on hard lessons learned from last year.
“Absolutely no-one wants to stop people seeing their loved ones when they are in hospital, we know, often first-hand, how important it is.
“However, the safety of our patients is our overriding priority.”
The restrictions apply to:
- Alnwick Infirmary
- Berwick Infirmary
- Blyth Community Hospital
- Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital
- Hexham General Hospital
- North Tyneside General Hospital
- The Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital
- The Whalton Unit
- Wansbeck General Hospital
Dr David Tate, director of infection prevention and control and consultant microbiologist at Northumbria Healthcare, said norovirus and flu are “nasty and easily spread” but the risk can be reduced by people washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water.