PERFORMANCE: An outbreak of winter vomiting bugs has prompted Southampton hospital managers to close wards and urge visitors to stay away.

Southampton General Hospital has had to shut seven wards to new admissions in an attempt to halt the spread of gastroenteritis viruses, resulting in the loss of 30 beds.

Managers have also sought to reduce movement across the hospital site, restricting transfers of patients and staff between clinical areas unless the move is necessary for patient care.

Dr Graeme Jones, director of the infection prevention unit at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said on 4 January that cases of vomiting and diarrhoea in the community could make the situation worse.

He said: “We are currently dealing with an intense build up of pressure following a number of wards being affected in the past two days and are requesting that visitors and members of the public help to limit transmission of viruses to vulnerable patients and to staff caring for them.”

He added: “While we are working hard to contain the spread of infection within hospital, the national picture suggests the situation is going to worsen in the community over the coming days and that could have a major impact on any progress we make now, so we are asking people to stay away unless their visit is absolutely essential.”

He said anyone wanting to come into the hospital who has recently felt unwell should be symptom-free for at least 48 hours “before contemplating coming in”.

The trust asked families to ensure school-age children do not visit the site, as they are at increased risk of transmitting infection. Staff members with symptoms were told not to come to work until they have been clear of symptoms for two days.

Anyone planning to visit Southampton General, the Princess Anne Hospital or hospice Countess Mountbatten House was advised to check with the relevant wards and departments before attending as any visits are at the discretion of staff.