Dying in Hospital in the Covid era

  • Talking Points

Dying in hospital in the Covid 19 era.

In the Covid 19 era most things have changed, not least the likelihood of death and place of death for different groups of people.

The elderly, the overweight and those with diabetes or other long-term medical problems, as well as those in the group described as BAME are at increased risk of death from this virus. The statistics show that no group is without risk, although in preadolescent children death from Covid 19 is exceptionally rare.

In the UK in April and May 2020, hospitals needed more intensive care beds and extra ward facilities for Covid 19 patients. Those with more usual illnesses kept, or were kept, away from hospital. During these months almost 60% instead of the usual 25% - a quarter - of all deaths occurred in private homes. Covid 19 was involved in only a fifth of deaths at home. Most Covid 19 deaths occurred in hospitals.

In April 2020 some hospitals were allowing one visitor for patients at the end of life, providing the visitor did not need to self-isolate and could wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Other hospitals were not able to allow any family member to the bedside. Health care staff, themselves bruised by deaths, demonstrated compassion for both the dying and their families doing their best, with the aid of technology, to link the dying with their family. Nevertheless, it was unsatisfactory as is so much of our antisocial life today.

At the time of writing (October 2020) visiting in some hospitals is not normally possible and at other hospitals it is limited and only by appointment. It is probable that most if not all hospitals will have made special arrangements for when a relative is dying.

Personal space, handwashing and masks covering mouth and nose are our best protection.

Sources: https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/charts-and-infographics/understanding-changes-to-all-mortality-during-the-pandemic

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/end-of-life-care-profiles-february-2018-update/statistical-commentary-end-of-life-care-profiles-february-2018-update