NHS ends deathbed goodbyes during COVID-19. Use Skype, families are told

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Dying patients should be encouraged to say goodbye to their families over Skype during a major coronavirus outbreak, according to official guidance issued to the UK‘s National Health Service (NHS) hospitals. Families should be restricted from visiting their relatives in intensive care to avoid spreading the disease on hospital wards, The Daily Telegraph reports doctors have been told. Instead relatives should be asked to use “mobile devices and video calling” to speak to dying patients rather than risk contracting the disease by visiting them in person.

The report says the guidance was issued to hospitals across the UK by the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and the Royal College of Anaesthetists. During the expected outbreak, clinicians should “restrict access to critical care areas for non-essential staff and any families or friends”, the document says. When patients are believed to be dying, doctors should “discuss using mobile devices and video-calling with the local Caldicott Guardian, particularly on compassionate grounds during end-of-life processes”, it adds.

The report says senior doctors defended the new guidance and said it was necessary to protect both the relatives of the dying and the healthcare workers attempting to keep them alive.

“This might be distasteful to some, but in many cases it would be necessary,” said Dr Ron Daniels, founder of the UK Sepsis Trust and an intensive care consultant at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

The guidance also outlines how NHS hospitals should allow junior staff to take on more advanced roles to prevent the system becoming overwhelmed. Clinicians with “non-essential managerial roles” should be redeployed to the front line, it says, while “staff groups with critical care expertise may need to move to supervisory roles rather than bedside clinical care”.

CEO of the NHS, Simon Stevens, confirmed that the vast majority of visitors would be banned from hospitals in England in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, although there would be exceptions in some cases.

Full report in The Daily Telegraph

NHS guidance

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