COVID-19: Going to hospital for a physical illness or injury

Disclaimer: This resource provides information, not advice. Please read the full disclaimer at the end of this resource.

For patients

Yes. If you have a physical health problem that would usually need care in the emergency department, it is still alright for you to go there if there is no alternative place for you to get that care.

Hospitals have had to change the way they work. They now need to look after people who have COVID-19 infection and protect those who don’t from getting it.

People may be treated in different areas of the hospital, depending on whether they have, or may have, the infection.

Staff are being very careful not to catch or pass on the infection. So, when they see you, they may be wearing an apron or gown, masks and visors. This will protect both you and them.

Hospital staff need to know about your mental health condition as soon as possible, how it affects you and what treatment you have for it, so that they can give you the right treatment safely. If you have a specialist mental health team looking after you, it’s helpful if you can have their details with you, including their phone number.

Most general hospitals have something called a liaison psychiatry team made up of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses. So, if you need help for your mental health while in hospital, the hospital ward staff can ask them for help and advice.

The liaison psychiatry team can also make sure that hospital staff have the right information about the care you had before you came into hospital, and help you to get the right care after you leave.

Liaison psychiatry teams are trying to protect patients from COVID-19 infection. This means they might only see you in person if they can’t make a safe plan without doing so. They may be able talk to you and your family or carers over the phone or by video conference.

The staff will work really hard to make sure that you get the care you need. They need to know about your mental health condition and treatment so that they can plan your care safely.

If your mental health symptoms do get worse, they may need to adjust your mental health medication. They may also need to ask for advice from the liaison psychiatry team as to how best to care for your mental health alongside your physical health

Hospitals are now limiting the number of visitors to keep everyone safe. This can be hard for anyone in hospital when they are feeling unwell and vulnerable. It may be even harder for someone who has a mental health condition.

Ask the staff what the rules are in your area about visitors as they may vary in different parts of the hospital. If you can’t have visitors to your bedside, staff may be able to help you to talk to them on the phone.

Children, however, should always be allowed to have one parent or carer with them unless there are exceptional reasons why this is not possible

For carers 

Yes. In the instance that your loved one can't communicate about their condition (e.g. they have memory problems, they don’t understand their condition, or they are very young),  it is really helpful to contact the ward looking after them to let them know about any mental health condition your loved one has, how it affects them and any treatment they need for it. This will help the ward teams to provide the best possible care for them.

At the moment, ward staff prefer to give updates on the phone. Visits increase the risk of infection to both patients and visitors, especially on wards dedicated to caring for patients with COVID-19.

Ward staff still follow usual procedures regarding information sharing. If they decline to give information to you, they should be able to clearly explain why they cannot do this.

When you speak with ward staff, do tell them how you can be contacted and when you are happy to be contacted. If there are several family members or loved ones

who want to be updated, it is helpful for staff to keep in contact with one key person who can then communicate with the others as needed.

Ask the ward staff about any specific arrangements for sharing information with loved ones who can’t visit due to infection precautions.

Clinical teams are trying to improve remote communications. If you are usually involved with care planning for your loved one, the treating team may be able arrange a way for this to happen, even if you can’t visit. Ask staff about this. As mentioned in the answer above, they will follow the usual rules for information sharing.
In the current situation, wards may find it difficult to give you a named person that you can call at any time. But do ask if you can have the ward telephone number. Ask ward staff about how you can get regular updates and tell them about any concerns you have.

Disclaimer

This resource provides information, not advice.  

The content in this resource is provided for general information only. It is not intended to, and does not, amount to advice which you should rely on. It is not in any way an alternative to specific advice.  You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in this resource.

If you have questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider without delay.  

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