HEALTH bosses at Stroud General Hospital closed a ward to visitors for almost a week following a suspected outbreak of norovirus.

Patients in the Cashes Green elderly care ward have been denied visits from loved ones since Thursday after several began showing symptoms of the highly contagious vomit and diarrhoea-inducing bug.

Samples taken away for testing have since revealed no trace of the virus and the ward is due to re-open around lunchtime today, Wednesday.

Thursday's decision to close was briefly overturned the following morning after it was determined that the patients' aliments could be explained away as side effects to medication or symptoms or other illnesses.

But the ward was shut again late on Friday afternoon after one patient started experiencing severe signs of norovirus.

One visitor, who asked not to be named, said his mother was turned away by nurses on Thursday when she attempted to visit her husband, who had been admitted the previous day.

The following afternoon she returned when the ward re-opened, only to be asked to leave moments later as the second closure order was imposed. 
"Their management of it seems a bit haphazard," said the visitor.

"Of course they have to shut down and do a deep clean when these things happen and the staff there are great, they are doing the best they can but the system just seems to take so long to determine what the problem is.

"My father is quite confused so it is difficult for him to understand why he cannot see visitors."

Liz Fenton, head of nursing for Gloucestershire Care Services, said: "Cashes Green Ward was closed over the weekend because of a suspected norovirus outbreak.

"The decision to close a ward is based on the evidence of symptoms of two or more patients.

"Our infection control team may act to close a ward before lab test results are known, in order to make sure that an outbreak is contained with as little risk of spreading to other patients as possible.

"To minimise the spread of the virus, staff adopt a 'barrier nursing' approach - wearing gloves and aprons and washing their hands with soap and water between contact with patients.

"Patient care is always at the forefront of our minds and we will allow people to visit on compassionate grounds."