EAST Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has asked that only immediate family and carers visit patients in any of its five hospitals from today following the COVID-19 outbreak.

From 6am tomorrow the trust is asking the public to consider phone calls, FaceTime and Skype as alternative ways of keeping in touch with patients at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, Burnley General Teaching Hospital, and Accrington, Pendle and Clitheroe Community Hospital.

To minimise risk, the trust is asking that visitors to their hospital sites must be immediate family members or carers.

They are also asking that the public not visit any health and care settings, and this applies to all inpatient, diagnostic, outpatient and emergency care areas, if they are:

• unwell, especially if they have a high temperature or a new, persistent cough

• vulnerable as a result of their medication, a chronic illness or they are over 70 years of age.

Following guidance from NHS England, visitors should be limited to one per patient unless:

• the patient is receiving end-of-life care

• the visitor needs to be accompanied – accompanying visitors should not stay in patient, ward or communal areas, and this applies to inpatient and outpatient settings

• they are a partner and birthing partner accompanying a woman in labour.

The trust has asked that no children under 12 visits without prior permission from the ward sister or charge nurse.

A spokesman for the trust said: "Due to these unprecedented times, and to minimise the risk to patients and staff, and following guidance from NHS England, visiting is restricted to one hour per day from 2.30pm to 3.30pm in hospitals and other health and care settings.

"Slightly different rules apply to Paediatrics and Neonates, where two visitors are allowed, and this may include a child under 12.

"The Trust appreciates that this is a very troubling time for everyone, and asks for the public’s help in respecting these rules which keep patients and staff safe."