The families of many coronavirus patients who have died in hospital have faced the added heartache of being unable to say goodbye to their loved ones.
Stringent measures to restrict social contact have been enforced across the UK in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, including limits on visiting hospitals.
The latest NHS England guidance states that hospital visiting is “suspended with immediate effect and until further notice”, but it lists several exceptions.
It says in certain circumstances one visitor – who must be an immediate family member or carer – is allowed to visit a hospital patient.
The circumstances include:
- If the patient is receiving end-of-life care
- If the visitor is the birthing partner of a woman in labour
- If the visitor is a parent or “appropriate adult” visiting a child patient
- If the visitor is supporting someone with a mental health issue such as dementia, a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed
The guidance applies to all inpatient, diagnostic and outpatient areas, NHS England said.
This includes visits to coronavirus patients but they would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
NHS England said those eligible to see hospital patients should contact the ward or department they are on beforehand to discuss visiting arrangements.
It has also encouraged families of patients to keep in touch with their loved ones in hospital by phone or video call.
The Scottish government told Sky News that the same rules and exceptions outlined by NHS England apply to hospital visits in Scotland. Similar guidance has been issued in Wales and Northern Ireland.
In a letter to NHS chiefs in Wales last month, chief nursing officer Professor Jean White said permission to visit COVID-19 patients “should only be given in extreme circumstances in line with pandemic guidance and with advice from the infection prevention control team”.
“No visitor who is pregnant, under the age of 12 years, or is deemed to fall in to a high risk group should be permitted,” she added.
Earlier this month, a top intensive care doctor told Sky News that no coronavirus patients would die alone in hospitals.
Dr Alison Pittard, the dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, told Kay Burley @ Breakfast: “There have been reports that patients have been dying alone and I would like to reassure the public that no person will die in hospital alone.
“They may not have their loved ones next to them, but they will have healthcare workers – both doctors and nurses – and other members of staff by their side holding their hands and making sure that they are not alone when they die.”