Coronavirus (COVID-19): hospital visiting guidance

Enabling family support for people in hospital in Scotland.

This document is part of a collection

Individuals providing support

The person or people providing support can change. This may be particularly relevant for example if a person in hospital needs support from a different person for a variety of reasons, or if the person who has been providing support becomes unwell, needs a rest or is unable to visit. Changes to the person providing support should be reasonable, but in order to reduce the risk of transmission, for example changing the named person multiple times in a day or perhaps daily, would not be expected in normal circumstances.

Policies should not restrict the presence of children and if children need to be accompanied this should not prevent a visit. More detail about how this guidance applies to children is included on page 10 of this document.

Patients should be supported to identify the family members, friends or carers who will support them while they are in hospital. It is important to make sure that patients and their families are aware of the flexibility to change those visiting if required.  This can help to reduce the emotional trauma some people may experience if they feel they are having to choose between family members.

Individual wards and hospitals are best placed to decide how to manage family presence based on patient need, physical environment and local incidence and prevalence of COVID-19. Examples of ways this has been managed include introducing one-way systems, signing in and out, and arranging visits in advance. These and other considerations will be especially necessary in multiple occupancy patient areas.

If a visitor is required to arrange a visit in advance, this must be clearly communicated to patients and visitors.

No one should attend the hospital if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating following contact with someone with COVID-19 and instead should remain at home and follow advice on NHS Inform, unless in specific and limited scenarios such as end of life care. Staff should make every effort to remind patients and those providing essential support of the importance of this. Anyone who arrives at the ward/department with symptoms should be asked politely to leave and return home directly to follow advice on NHS Inform.

NHS boards should not compress visiting into a limited time-window within the day.  A person-centred approach should be adopted to avoid overcrowding in clinical and communal areas, and enabling family to visit at a time that meets their needs and those of the patient.

Risk assessments should be carried out where required and these may need to be tailored to specific environmental or clinical requirements locally. Clinical teams and managers may find the family support checklist provided in the appendices of this guidance helpful in assisting with this process.

The number of people able to be accommodated in a clinical area at any one time will vary depending on the setting. For example, hospitals with single rooms will be able to accommodate more people at any one time than multiple occupancy areas. Individual settings should consider how many people it is possible to accommodate at any one time. This should be done in the context of overall footfall throughout the hospital. The Winter IPC Respiratory Addendum gives advice on how Boards should apply the Hierarchy of Controls risk assessment to support patient, staff and visitor safety.


If you have feedback on this guidance please email:

Back to top