FAMILIES and friends are no longer able to visit patients in Inverclyde Royal as the hospital guards against the coronavirus surge.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have introduced a visiting ban across the board, except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life care or mums giving birth.

The essential visitors only restriction came into place this week.

Bosses promise that it will be kept under review and only remain in place for as long as necessary.

Health bosses said it was necessary to protect both patients and staff in the face of the steep increase in Covid-19 cases.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde deputy nurse director Jennifer Rodgers said: “This has been one of the hardest decisions to take but it is essential to help protect our patients, visitors and staff.

"We recognise how difficult this is for patients and the people that matter most to them and we will keep this under close review so that restrictions are not in place any longer than is necessary.

“This decision has been reached in conjunction with senior infection control, public health, clinical and operational teams, and in the best interests of patient wellbeing."

She said essential visiting arrangements would be applied flexibly and compassionately, with each patient's needs considered on their own merits.

Cases classed essential include where a patient is in their final days, a birthing partner is in the labour wards, or someone has a mental health issue, dementia, a learning disability or autism where a visitor not being present would cause distress.

Staff on wards will assist where possible to allow patients contact to those closest to them.

The ‘Give and Go Service’ available earlier in the pandemic will be remobilised for family to drop-off essential personal items for patients and to pick up laundry.

Depute nurse director Angela O’Neil added: “We recognise how difficult it is for families being apart, especially when their loved one is unwell.

"We are sorry for any distress this may cause and of course, staff will always try to facilitate these calls where possible, however we ask for your understanding while we try to manage under very challenging circumstances."