Managing official visits on NHS premises

Hospital corridor

18 / 6 / 2015 11.03am

Kate Lampard’s Lessons learnt report was published in February 2015 following the public inquiry into activities carried out by Jimmy Savile on NHS premises.  The report takes a reflective view of the good practice principles NHS organisations already have in place, and makes a number of key recommendations which are targeted at driving up the quality of patient safety and care. This includes a requirement for all NHS trusts to ensure that they have policies in place for agreeing and managing all visits by celebrities, VIPs and other official visitors, and for this to apply without exception.

We know that many NHS trusts already have robust policies and processes in place to coordinate and manage official visits, including those by members of the Royal Family, TV celebrities, sports personalities, Ministers and other officials. Official visits can play an important role in promoting services and excellence in the NHS by enhancing the patients' experience, encouraging and motivating staff, and building public confidence in local health services. 

Here we outline a number of key aspects that employers may find helpful to consider when implementing, reviewing and/or developing your local arrangements.  The information is intended as a guide only and reflects current good practice already implemented by a number of NHS organisations.

More information about Savile inquiry and the recommendations made in the Lessons Learnt report can be found on the NHS Employers website.

Guidance content

Devising your policy document

Policies on managing official visits should include key information, set out clear procedures for each stage of the process, and make the necessary links to other relevant policies, advice and guidance.  

Policies are most effective when they are developed in partnership with staff, managers and the relevant functions to ensure that protocols follow best practice, and any risks of disruption or reduced quality of patient services are identified early on and can be addressed before the implementation stage. 

Engaging with staff side colleagues will also be helpful to ensure arrangements are widely communicated and understood by all staff.


Providing a policy statement or general overview that clearly outlines why your organisation believes it is important to have effective arrangements in place to manage official visits, the benefits of enabling such opportunities, and how this can help drive the quality of services and patient safety will be key to ensure staff understand what’s expected of them and why.

This will also be helpful in ensuring consistency of messaging in any wider external communications. You may wish to consider outlining your organisation’s commitment to ensuring the well-being, safety, and dignity of patients, their families and staff.


The scope should ideally provide more detailed information about the context and rationale for introducing the policy.  Including definitions of the different types of visits and visitors, will also help give clarity about who the policy relates to and when the outlined arrangements should be applied.

Cross-referencing any related local policies and procedures (which are targeted at managing the quality of services and patient safety) will help wider recognition of how this process links to arrangements in place. For example this might include any professional codes of practice, recruitment and training, employment check requirements, safeguarding, grievance and disciplinary, making complaints and raising concerns, accident reporting, dignity at work and health and safety.


The way any visit is organised will depend on who the visitor is, the reason for the visit and the length of the visit. As a minimum, the policy should aim to provide clarity on: 

  • who should be approached and the process to follow when requesting/seeking approval of a visit 
  • timescales/period of notice for arrangements to be made 
  • who needs to be involved in the planning and coordination of a visit including who will have lead responsibility for hosting and escorting the visitor for the duration of their visit 
  • which functions need to be involved e.g. security, estates/facilities, human resources etc 
  • what should happen during a visit including who the visitor should contact on arrival. This should provide clarity for staff/visitors about restrictions on access and supervision arrangements
  • what should happen following a visit including the management of any press releases or media coverage
  • where to find further information, advice and guidance from (in relation to local protocols to ensure best practice).  

Screening requirements

The vast majority of official visits will be one-off events, therefore safeguarding arrangements should be proportionate to any risks identified at the planning stage. 

Where official visitors have a longer term or ongoing relationship with the trust it will also be important to involve the human resources department to ascertain local appointment processes and what checks might be required in line with any legal  requirements, such as criminal record and barring checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).  Further information in regard to checks that might need to be considered can be found  on the NHS Employment Check Standards pages of this website.

Examples of when a longer visit might take place includes:
  • people that have a link with a particular service
  • key fundraisers
  • charity patrons
  • people that are more actively involved in volunteering on the hospital premises.  

Employers may also wish to consider requiring all official visitors to wear a lanyard and identity badge which is visible at all times during their visit.  This should clearly identify the type of access they are permitted to have, and an expiry date of these permissions.


Working with security, estates and human resources teams will be helpful to identify safeguarding and security arrangements that need to be considered. This will allow all appropriate and proportionate measures to be put in place to mitigate any risks, this is especially important if the visit is likely to attract significant media or public interest.

Having a nominated person, or team as the key point of contact for the arrangement and co-ordination of all visits will help to ensure the correct protocols are adhered to and follow best practice.  This may be particularly helpful in coordinating visits outside of normal working hours or weekends and in managing any unexpected or short notice visits, which may arise from time to time.


Once you have good arrangements in place, make sure people know about them - policies and arrangements will only be effective if they are widely communicated and understood by all staff. 

Getting the message across to staff can be done in a variety of different ways such as direct mailing (by hard copy or email), intranet, team briefings and meetings, staff bulletins/newsletters, and as part of induction training. 

Involving staff side early on in your communications strategy will be helpful in ensuring staff are aware of the policy, and fully understand the process and who to contact should they have any issues or queries about official visits.

Useful information for staff/visitors

Providing information on your intranet, external website and in any correspondence relating to a scheduled visit, will be useful to inform staff/officials/VIPs and their representatives about the correct protocols to follow to ensure best practice.  This might include:
  • who to contact to schedule a visit 
  • management of press releases and media coverage
  • what to wear during a visit e.g. uniform or team kit, in the case of sports personalities
  • infection control
  • smoking policy
  • confidentiality, including consent required for filming and taking photos and the use of social media
  • gifts and presents
  • access and car parking
  • raising concerns/whistleblowing - reinforcing your organisation's stance in regard to dealing with and acting on concerns raised will be key to instilling confidence in staff, patients and the public that your organisation takes its responsibilities seriously.  Further information and resources available to assist in any internal/external communications can be found on the raising concerns at work section of this website
  • sign-posting to further advice, information, and guidance.

Don’t forget to celebrate success!

Sharing good news stories, and celebrating success can go a long way to encourage and motivate staff.  
Showcasing excellence in appropriate external communications can also be instrumental in building public confidence in local services available to them, and in providing assurance to regulators that your organisation is well-led. 

Monitor, review and revise

Employers should periodically review local arrangements to ensure policies and practices are working effectively and follow best practice.  Reviewing the process and ensuring understanding of the process with staff will be important to evaluate your organisations progress. Involving staff side colleagues will be helpful to promote open and honest conversations with staff about any issues or difficulties with confidentiality, security and safeguarding, and in involving staff in making service improvements.

Evaluating your organisations progress can be done in a variety of ways:

  • including questions within your local staff surveys test, checking awareness of the policy and understanding of the procedure to follow  
  • regular feedback sessions with staff, managers and senior managers to evaluate the impact of any scheduled visits, and to identify any challenges, or difficulties with confidentiality/security/ safeguarding that might need to be considered for future visits
  • compare and correlate data with information from other risk management systems.
Internally communicating key findings from any review or survey will help demonstrate that the organisation is willing to learn and act on how its own arrangements are working in practice.

Further information about effective staff engagement and using data from the NHS staff survey and other local surveys to evaluate your organisations progress can be found on our website.






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