Coronavirus (COVID-19): hospital visiting guidance

Enabling family support for people in hospital in Scotland.

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Mental health, learning disability, neurodevelopment and addictions

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and in particular Article 8, which provides a right to respect for private and family life, is of particular relevance for people accessing mental health, learning disability, neurodevelopmental, addictions services where their stay in hospital is often lengthy. Given this, the ward is deemed to be their home during this period.

Many people with mental health issues may have fewer family members and friends that they are in regular contact with and can often feel socially isolated and disconnected from their local communities. It is therefore crucial that connections with their friends and family is supported to aid their recovery and to support their transition from being cared for in a hospital to managing their mental health condition after discharge.

Family and friends should be seen as partners in care, and crucial to the individual’s treatment and recovery. The ward clinical team must take account of the evolving evidence about the possible harm posed from the COVID-19 virus, carefully balancing this with the evidence about the positive impact on health and wellbeing from seeing family and loved ones on the individual’s treatment and recovery plan.

Individualised approach

An individual visiting plan should be discussed with the person, their next of kin and the ward clinical team. This could include a combination of both in person and virtual visiting. This will ensure:

  • the needs of the person are met,
  • no blanket timelines for the duration of a visit,
  • the family have been involved in thinking through how they can best arrange their day to meet the agreed visiting plan and to keep the rest of their family and friends connected to the person. This may include the use of virtual visiting approaches for wider family members and friends unable to visit in person, and
  • the clinical team can manage the number of people in the clinical area at any one time to enable COVID safe precautions to be maintained.

The plan should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the individual’s needs are continuing to be met and that their family and friends are being supported to see their loved ones.

Family and carers involved in the provision of care

It may be beneficial for a family member or a carer to undertake some personal care such as supporting nutritional intake at meal times, bathing etc. where they have been used to working with the person and not having their input would cause them distress to involve them in the care and support of the individual. The clinical team should work with the family / carer to enable this to occur. In these instances they should not be deemed as a visitor to the ward and be provided with the necessary PPE and education to undertake this activity.


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