Sajid Javid will personally call NHS trust chiefs who are defying the government by keeping Covid restrictions in hospitals, The Telegraph can reveal.
The Health Secretary is also considering naming and shaming those that do not heed his warnings to ease the measures.
Infection control guidance was significantly relaxed last month, in an effort to free up more capacity to tackle waiting lists.
But some NHS trusts are reportedly ignoring the new rules, restricting their ability to tackle the backlog.
The Health Secretary’s intervention comes after The Telegraph previously revealed hospitals were continuing to restrict families from visiting patients, against official guidance.
University Hospitals Birmingham still has all routine visits suspended, for example, except in extreme circumstances such as end of life care.
‘completely unacceptable’ to ignore rules
Patient groups previously said isolating patients away from loved ones could now be more harmful to their health than Covid-19.
In April, infection control guidance issued by the Department of Health and Social Care and the UK Health Security Agency was significantly relaxed.
Social distancing in all areas of the hospital, including emergency departments, ambulances and outpatients settings, should return to pre-pandemic levels, the guidance said.
Enhanced cleaning procedures in non-Covid areas should return to normal, it added.
The isolation period of Covid-19 patients in hospitals was also reduced from 10 days to seven with two negative tests. Patients who come into close contact with Covid-19 cases no longer have to isolate if they have no symptoms.
A senior government source said: “Some NHS trusts do not appear to be following the new guidance on infection prevention control measures.
“The Health Secretary thinks this is completely unacceptable – not only does it restrict capacity but it ignores the fact that patients need to see loved ones, and loved ones need to see patients.
“The guidance has been developed by clinicians based on the latest data and evidence so there is no reason for it to not be followed.”
Mr Javid had previously raised the issue with trust chief executives, but will now directly call those failing to lift the restrictions, the source said.
Visiting for at least one hour a day
It comes after Ruth May, NHS England’s chief nurse, warn no patient should have to attend a hospital appointment alone.
On March 8, NHS England told hospitals “visiting should be accommodated for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer.”
“This includes when a patient wishes or needs to be accompanied by someone at outpatient/diagnostic appointments and in the emergency department, they must be allowed to do so,” Ms May said last month.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The Secretary of State is right to highlight that, over time, each trust will be able to adapt its control procedures to increase productivity and see more patients.”
But he added the speed at which each trust can move “will be significantly determined by local factors, such as how many single rooms a hospital has, how easy it is to separate Covid and non-Covid patients, and local community infection rates”.
He added: “That’s why the guidance is very clear that changing infection procedures can only be a decision for each trust.
“Not least because trust leaders are also accountable for ensuring the safety of highly vulnerable patients for whom this virus can still be fatal. Trust leaders are doing all they can to safely adapt their infection control procedures as quickly as possible.”