ONLY essential visits will be allowed at Forth Valley Royal and community hospitals following a rise in the number of patients with Covid-19.

The essential visiting arrangements are also in response to high rates of infections in communities across Forth Valley and in central Scotland.

The move means only essential visits will be allowed, which include a birth partner to support woman during hospital visits, scans, during and after labour.

Visits from both parents to support a baby or child in hospital; to support a person receiving end-of-life care to ensure they are able to spend meaningful time with their loved ones in their final days, weeks or months are allowed as well.

Also, visits to support someone with a mental health condition such as dementia, or a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed; visits in situations when someone is receiving information about a life-changing illness or treatment; and in situations where support from another person is essential for advocacy and wellbeing will be able to go ahead.

NHS Forth Valley said the essential visiting arrangements will be applied flexibly and compassionately with patient needs to be considered on an individual basis.

Those providing spiritual care are not considered visitors and will be able to continue to support patients.

Professor Angela Wallace, director of nursing at NHS Forth Valley, said: “This difficult decision was taken following detailed discussions with our infection control, public health, clinical and nursing leads over the last week.

“We understand it will be very disappointing for local patients and families and we will keep these temporary visiting arrangements under regular review.

“We also recognise how important the support of local friends and family is to our patients and staff will do everything possible to help them stay in touch with loved ones through phone and video calls.”