Coronavirus (COVID-19): hospital visiting

Enabling family support for people in hospital in Scotland.

This document is part of a collection


The importance of support from family members and loved ones for people in hospital cannot be overstated, bringing comfort to both the person in hospital and their family.

We know that this support has a positive effect on quality of care including nutrition, healing, recovery and overall quality of care. Given this, family support should be a fundamental part of the care of a person in hospital and not optional. Health Boards should have plans in place and be taking material steps towards a return to full person-centred visiting.

The principles of person-centred visiting include:

  • the removal of set visiting times
  • establishing processes to support individuals to identify the people who are important to them, and
  • how they would like to be supported.

Some infection prevention and control (IPC) precautions are still necessary because people in hospital tend to be more vulnerable to infections and serious illness. These policies are designed to keep people in hospital as safe as possible.

We expect Health Boards to be open and accommodating in their management of visiting, responding in a compassionate and flexible way as required. However, it may be necessary at times to restrict visiting in areas where there is an infection outbreak for specified periods of time. In these circumstances it is normal practice to restrict visiting in that area until the outbreak is under control. Even in these circumstances essential visits should be able to continue in most cases.

Some examples of these essential visits include:

  • when someone is reaching the end of their life
  • if someone has dementia and needs family support
  • support for someone with a learning disability
  • a family member who has informal caring responsibilities
  • parents of a child in hospital
  • support during pregnancy and childbirth, including outpatient appointments, ante-natal and post-natal care
  • situations where someone is receiving life-changing information

These examples are illustrative and are not an exhaustive list.

What is meant by family support

The term “family” is used in its broadest possible sense, recognising that the person an individual might want to support them in hospital could be a friend, carer or neighbour and may not always be a relative. We recognise that the support provided from such people is vital to the wellbeing and recovery of a person in hospital. Wherever the term “family” is used throughout this guidance the same broad interpretation is intended. This recognises that family and friends are not “visitors” in a person’s life, even in hospital.


Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Precautions

IPC precautions for family visiting the hospital remain in place and include the following:

  • wearing a face covering or fluid repellent facemask if provided
  • regular hand-washing or rubbing and applying alcohol-based hand rub
  • maintaining good respiratory hygiene by covering the nose/mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, or when wiping or blowing your nose
  • staying away if you feel unwell, especially with cold or flu symptoms, or if you have had diarrhoea or vomiting within the last 48 hours

Further precautions may be required if there is an outbreak of an infection and these will be defined by local Health Board IPC teams. For further information please see: NIPCM appendix 21 - COVID 19 pandemic measures


If you have feedback on this guidance please email:

Back to top