Covid curbs having negative effect on well-being, coroners warn

Ban on hospital visits ‘is damaging patient care’: Covid curbs are having a negative effect on people’s well-being, coroners warn

  • Coroners believe measures brought in to limit the spread of coronavirus to patients and staff may be having an impact on patient care and well being 
  • It is thought measures may stop families from passing information to doctors  
  • It comes after the Health Service Journal identified four inquest reports which raise concerns, but have stopped short at drawing a direct link to the deaths  

Curbs on hospital visitors are having a damaging effect on patient care and well-being, coroners have warned.

The NHS has severely restricted visits during the pandemic to try to limit the spread of Covid to patients and staff.

However, coroners say these measures may prevent families of vulnerable patients from passing key information to doctors.

The Health Service Journal has identified four inquest reports that raise concerns but do not draw a direct link to the deaths. 

One woman who committed suicide in a psychiatric unit had been refused permission for family visits in a nearby park. Her daughter said video calls were ‘just a face on a screen’ while seeing her in person ‘would have given her the push that she needed’.

Coroners have warned curbing visits is having an impact on wellbeing (stock image) 

Another report into the death of a man who died from underlying health problems said a lack of family visits ‘could in other circumstances cause significant challenges in delivering effective treatment quickly to vulnerable patients’. 

Another raised concerns that a woman who died after falling unobserved while self-isolating in her care home was sent to hospital alone, presenting significant problems in terms of understanding her health needs.

Jacob Lant, at patient watchdog Healthwatch England, said: ‘Our main ask is that hospitals fully consider the ways in which family members and friends support patients before implementing blanket policies.’ 

Lucy Schonegevel, of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: ‘Regular communication with families and loved ones continues to prove difficult for many, not only increasing feelings of isolation and distress, but also potentially preventing important information from being shared.’

Coroners say measures to protect the safety of staff, patients and their loved ones may prevent families of vulnerable patients from passing key information to doctors (stock image) 

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said trusts were ‘aware of the important information that families and carers can provide about patients’ and had worked hard to find alternatives to in-person visits.

The Department of Health said: ‘Patient safety is our top priority… However, the Government also recognises the importance of being able to visit loved ones in hospital.’

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