Introduction When COVID-19 arrived in the UK, hospitals and many hospices closed their doors to visiting. Our Hospice maintained visiting throughout the pandemic, although in a restricted fashion with strict personal protective equipment (PPE) use and other mitigating measures in place. The aim of this analysis was to determine if visiting can be safely maintained in a hospice setting during a pandemic. Patients had COVID-19 tests when clinically indicated and additionally from May 2020 were routinely screened on admission.
Method A retrospective analysis of Electronic Care Records for hospice inpatients between 27th February 2020 (first COVID-19 case in Northern Ireland) and 1st September 2021 (18 months). Key demographics, length of stay and number of COVID-19 swabs per patient, along with the result, were analysed and compared with visiting restrictions at the time to identify any trends.
Results 484 patient’s records were reviewed with 465 included in the final analysis. 52% were female with average age 68 (range 17- 97). The majority had an oncological diagnosis and 31% received end of life care. 650 COVID-19 swabs were performed over this period (range 0–8). A total of 7 swabs were positive (0.01%), however 4 of these were on admission i.e. COVID-19 contracted prior to admission. Two of the 3 positive results during admission were during the first month of the pandemic, prior to many restrictions. Overall, patients who acquired COVID-19 in the hospice was less than 1% (0.65%). There were no staff outbreaks during the period.
Conclusion Patients were not put at significantly increased risk of COVID-19 by maintaining visiting and the benefits of doing this are likely to be substantial for both patients and their families. This has great relevance going forward as COVID-19 remains an ongoing issue and perhaps the greatest intervention is maintaining the strict use of PPE.
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