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No Child Should Die Alone

No Child Should Die Alone

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday April 14 2020

In an attempt to curb the infection rate of the coronavirus pandemic, NHS Trusts across the UK have been obliged to enforce restrictions of visitors in hospitals. While there can be no doubt that physical distancing measures are absolutely essential, we cannot overlook the distress caused by preventing contact between families and patients in their most desperate time of need.

On March 31st, a 13-year-old boy, Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, died alone at Kings College Hospital. Heart-wrenching images showed the deceased boy being buried without family present, conveying the anguish of many families such as his, who are deprived of being able to see their loved ones in their final moments. Ismail’s death in the absence of his family is all the more tragic because of his age. While the rationale behind limitations on visitors are clear and understandably vital for public protection, for a child to die without its parents is unimaginable.

A similarly tragic case from Bristol also found a woman unable to visit her hospitalised father, Gulwar Wazir, 84, due to restricted hospital visiting protocols. She revealed that he felt deserted; “He said ‘you’ve both left me to die’, that we’d abandoned him. That’s the last time I spoke to dad.”

These are but two heart-breaking cases which raise important questions regarding the balance between maintaining public health and mitigating the trauma of those in their final hours and their family members.

In recent weeks, families have been petitioning hospitals and MPs for exceptions to visiting regulations, especially for patients in intensive care units. Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, has been at the forefront of addressing the issue. Following a consultation with the Chair of her local Bradford Teaching Hospital Trust, Dr Max Maclean, the trust agreed to a set of changes that reduced hospital restrictions while still ensuring public safety.

These included changes from allowing no visitors at all to a one-visitor policy and a chaplaincy service to enable videos between patients and family members. Hospitals should be allowed to accommodate exceptions on compassionate grounds at their discretion and implement innovative ways such as virtual visits to enable contact and communication between loved ones within government guidelines. The example set by Naz Shah and the Bradford Teaching Hospital Trust should now be extended to other NHS trusts throughout England.

MEND will be writing to NHS England and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, to recommend similar accommodations in order to ensure that no child dies alone and to mitigate the pain and trauma that such families will face.


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