Are we post-COVID? I know lots of people in a range of contexts who have, or have just recovered from, COVID. At the same time, we are behaving as though the pandemic is history. How many people wear masks now? How many people are avoiding large gatherings? Are we resigned to living with COVID? How are medical settings dealing with the possibility of COVID?
And have we learned lessons from the pandemic? I learned that I like working from home. It has reinforced what is important to me – including spending time with family, continuing the activities I enjoy, being out in the fresh air. The importance of time with my family has been further highlighted by ongoing family illness, and that illness raises questions for me about what healthcare organisations have learned.
A relative in her 80s has been admitted to hospital. We visited once, then were told that there is a COVID case on the ward and that visiting is stopped. We were told that we are phoning to enquire after her too often! How will we know when visiting opens up again? – we have no way of knowing apart from contacting the ward. The relative concerned has impaired hearing which affects telephone contact, and has not used a mobile phone before. We understand that the phone used on the ward for patients does not reach as far as her bed, so we are cut off from contact with her and are discouraged from enquiring after her.
For those who are interested NHS England has an online document ‘Visiting healthcare inpatient settings while COVID-19 is in general circulation’, which says:
“It is important to recognise the contribution that visiting makes to the wellbeing and the person-centred care of patients; lack of access to visitors causes distress to them and their families.”
“Visiting should be accommodated for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer.”
It also talks about a compassionate approach in respect of adults who are dying, but the implication is that this applies to people who might die in the next few days – yes, time is precious, whether that be a few months, weeks or days.
But NHS England has only set out “principles”, and it is left to healthcare providers to work out how to apply them. I wonder what, if anything, some healthcare organisations have learned from the distress of people separated from their loved-ones during the height of the pandemic?