Health tsar wants ‘flexible’ visiting hours for hospitals

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SCOTLAND’S new health tsar has called for more “flexible” visiting hours in hospitals so patients can benefit from family support.

Dr Jason Leitch, who was recently tasked with improving standards in the NHS, is determined to make hospitals more welcoming to friends and relatives visiting loved ones.

He has called on hospital staff to look at new ways of ensuring the needs of patients are met through “care rounds” which feature staff asking people what they need to feel better and letting them get some fresh air or make small changes to their dinner menu.

The Harvard-educated surgeon said: “It feels restricted if I want to visit my wife or my mum. It does not feel open or free.

“I do not want you to get the impression that compassion is a peripheral element of overall change. I do not think it is fluffy.

“I think it makes the 
quality of the service better for patients and families.

“I want compassion to be as reliable as technical care. That might mean asking patients and families every day what matters to them.”

Since 2008, Mr Leitch has been leading the Scottish Patient Safety programme, which, using lessons he learned in the US, has significantly reduced deaths following operations and cut hospital infection rates.

His new post, Clinical Director of NHS Scotland, places him beside Sir Harry Burns, who oversees public health as Chief Medical Officer.

Originally a dentist who trained to become an oral surgeon before studying public health at Harvard, Mr Leitch is informed by his own experiences of the NHS.

In an online blog, he praises the “excellent” care his grandmother received but adds: “There were days where the personal was lost to the impersonal.”

Royal College of Nursing Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: “Nurses should understand the needs of patients and show compassion and sensitivity.”