As vital as the rules around preventing the spread of COVID-19 are, at GMMH we wanted to work as innovatively as possible to enable some visiting to go ahead in exceptional circumstances. Instead of making the blanket 'no visiting' rule, Gold Command commissioned an audit across all inpatient services to ensure that all service users who had been on a ward for four weeks or more had their visiting arrangements reviewed and if clinically appropriate, either a visit was facilitated or contact with family or carers was enabled. The audit also ensured there was a robust system on each ward which reviewed the visiting needs of every service user at least once a week.
The audit in itself is very good practice as it reminds all services that the contact between service users and those who care for them is essential – even more so during a pandemic. However, it also demonstrated some excellent innovation and clear examples of staff going the extra mile to ensure a sense of familiarity and comfort for our service users, during extraordinary times. These include:
- Parents of service users being able to join wards rounds via video link
- Later life service users taking part in visits over telephone or video call. They are supported by the psychology team so that the challenges of using unfamiliar technology are not a barrier to contacting friends and family
- Where face to face visits are needed, PPE is provided for families and carers with support both before, during and after the visit for the visitors and service users, to ensure safety is maintained during this essential contact
- Surface Pros and smart phones made available to facilitate virtual visits and contact for countless service users and their families and carers
Balancing the therapeutic needs of our service users alongside maintaining the highest standards of infection prevention and control is not easy. We are extremely proud of, and thank all staff who make contact and visiting possible, when those we care for need to see and speak with those who make them feel safe and secure at such a worrying time. We will continue to monitor the situation and continue to complete these audits at the end of the second lockdown in early December 2020.