COVID-19: Inpatient services

Working with The Royal College of Nursing we have outlined some relevant advice for staff working on mental health inpatient wards.

Visit the NHS England website for national guidance about assessment, diagnosis and management of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

How should we keep the ward community together?

Every ward is a community of people – patients and staff. As much as possible, this community should work together to best ensure the safety of everyone. But we cannot expect “business as usual” at this time. Each ward will have to find a way to focus on physical safety and infection control as the main priority. Key to managing this will be ward cohesion, communication, and adapting as a community within local services.

How should we deal with visiting and visitors?

NHS England and Improvement have issued updated guidance on visiting healthcare inpatient settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visiting is allowed in inpatient settings, in a very careful and COVID-secure way.

This guidance advises on how NHS and other healthcare organisations should facilitate visiting, as far as possible, across mental health, learning disability and autism healthcare inpatient settings. It is consistent with wider government advice on social distancing.

The Government has made available advice for visiting care homes.

Patient leave

  • Any decisions about leave will need to be taken based on the latest government advice at the time and analysis of benefits and risks for that individual patient’s recovery. 
  • Patient leave from the ward, either escorted or unescorted, will require additional risk assessment depending on patients’ exposure to symptoms.
  • Where possible, leave and time off the ward should be maintained. If it is not possible this should be clearly communicated to the patient including the process for review.
  • S.17 escorted leave arrangements will depend upon the location of the hospital and a localised risk assessment. Escorted leave should be individual and follow the guidelines of social distancing i.e. staff are advised to only escort 1 patient at a time and to maintain a two-meter distance. Some hospitals may want to limit all leave to 30 minutes to the local area only so that patients can get fresh air and time off the ward, but with limited chance of social interactions.


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