VISITORS at York Hospital are to be banned from taking flowers on to wards in a bid to control the spread of infections.

York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has drawn up a visitors’ code which will see a block being put on people carrying in bouquets and plants to their loved ones.

But the city’s florists have said they are shocked at the decision.

The ten-point code, which will come into force on December 1, will also advise visitors not to sit on a patient’s bed and will give hand-washing guidance intended to help combat bugs.

Libby McManus, the trust’s chief nurse, said:“This will enable staff to apply existing policies aimed at keeping us all safe and helping patients rest and recover when in hospital. This is particularly important as we get into the winter period when the winter vomiting virus and flu are prevalent in the community.”

The trust has written to florists throughout York to let them know about the rule changes, but John Ramsden, who co-owns Patricia May florists in Melrosegate, said: “I can see both sides, but this will affect our business because we make two or three deliveries to the hospital every day.

“It’s just a shame for patients because bringing flowers into the hospital is a nice gesture and now they cannot have that little bit of brightness.”

David Bough, of Ward’s of York Florists said: “It is a great concern to me because it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction when there is no real evidence of any research which shows a link between fresh flowers and disease.

“Flowers are a way of bringing joy to the lives of people who are not well. We have been delivering flowers to York Hospital patients for many years and would love to continue doing so.” With flowers off the agenda, the hospital is now asking people to come forward with ideas for other gifts.

“Patients now spend a much shorter time in hospital, and we will be asking visitors and local florists to arrange for flowers to be delivered to people’s homes to be enjoyed after patients are discharged,” said Ms McManus.

“We know that bringing gifts is something that many people like to do, and we know this can make a patient’s stay more pleasant. Therefore, we’re asking people for their suggestions as to what can be brought in, as an alternative to flowers.”

Setting out new code

THIS IS the hospital’s new guidance to visitors:

• Only visit during the allocated times – 3pm to 4.30pm and 6.30pm to 8pm.

• Report to ward staff on arrival and only have two visitors at a patients’ bedside.

• Do not sit on a patient’s bed.

• Do not bring children under the age of 12 to visit, unless the patient is their parent.

• Always use the disinfectant gel to clean your hands at the entrance to the ward and at the patient’s bedside, or wash them with warm, soapy water before and after you visit.

• Do not bring flowers or plants as gifts for patients.

• Do not visit if you are unwell or have been exposed to any infection. You must be free of symptoms for at least 48 hours before visiting the hospital.

• Respect the privacy of other patients.

• Appreciate that our staff will need to reinforce these rules and understand the reason for this.

• Treat our staff with respect and understand that, in exceptional circumstances, they may have to close an area to visitors. It may also be necessary to ask visitors to leave the bedside on occasions.

The code adds: “We will always try to be flexible in difficult or unusual circumstances.”

Suggestions for gifts which can be brought into the hospital instead of flowers can be sent to The above visiting times do not apply to the special care baby unit, children’s ward, maternity ward, intensive care unit, high dependency unit and critical care unit.

Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust said flowers were still allowed on to wards at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital, while a spokeswoman for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, said a ban had been in place for “some time”. Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, which covers Leeds General Infirmary, St James University Hospital, Seacroft Hospital, Wharfedale Hospital and Chapel Allerton Hospital, said it allowed flowers on all wards except those which house immuno-compromised patients, who were at particular risk of infection.