What to expect if someone you know is admitted to hospital with COVID-19

We know that being admitted to hospital can be a worrying time for all those involved; this is made more difficult by not being able to visit your friend or family member at this time. 

Below we explain more about coronavirus and what to expect if your family member or friend is admitted to one of our hospitals with COVID-19.

Full information is available to download in this leaflet.

What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

COVID-19 – also known as SARS-CoV-2 – is a type of coronavirus which is easily spread through droplets (ie by coughing, sneezing or touching your face). It causes mild illness in the majority of people who get infected, but can cause more severe illness for which people require hospital care.

Will my family member/friend be tested for COVID-19?

Yes, they will be tested for COVID-19. These tests can be uncomfortable but are essential to confirm the diagnosis. Results usually take around day to be processed. 

Where will they be cared for?

If your family member/friend is admitted to hospital and is suspected to have COVID-19, they will be admitted to a ‘suspected COVID-19’ ward or be put in a side room for isolation. If their COVID-19 test comes back as positive for the virus, they may be moved to a ‘confirmed COVID-19 ward’ to receive their care, and may share a bay with other patients.

The place in which they are cared for will depend on a few factors, such as their age group, how long their admission is likely to be and space on the wards.

How will my family member/friend be looked after while they are in hospital?

During their hospital admission, your family member/friend will have routine observations, usually by nursing staff and health care assistants. This will include checking their heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature. The team caring for them will decide how frequently this is needed.

Staff will help with cleaning, self-care and eating if they need assistance, and meals will be provided too.

Doctors will see your family member/friend daily as part of routine ward rounds. They will ask about symptoms and may examine them if needed. Blood tests will also be performed to monitor their condition.

Oxygen is the main treatment for COVID-19 and our decisions about your family member’s/friend’s care will be based largely upon their oxygen levels. If their oxygen levels are low, they will be given oxygen. This might be through tubing that sits in their nose or through a facemask. Some patients may require more intensive oxygen therapy than what can be offered on the ward. If this is the case, they may be moved to the intensive care/treatment unit (ICU/ITU) for further support.

Staff will be wearing personal protective equipment which includes an apron, gloves and a mask to help prevent the spread of infection. This is normal procedure.

Am I allowed to visit?

Unfortunately visitors are not allowed onto our wards until further notice, except in exceptional circumstances. We recognise this will be a difficult time for family, friends and carers, and appreciate your understanding and support in helping to keep our hospitals safe. We encourage you to use other methods of keeping in touch such a video and phone calls.

Patients receiving end of life care or who have a learning disability are able to have one visitor at a time, and usually only for an hour at a time. When visiting, you will be asked to wear personal protective equipment. In circumstances where a visitor requires assistance, two visitors will be accommodated and both will need to follow our visiting guidelines. Specific guidance and support is available for families and friends when they cannot visit and will be provided by the ward team as needed. 

More information about our visitor policy is available here.

How do I keep in touch with my family member/friend?

We appreciate this is a worrying time for you and it will be difficult being unable to visit your family member/friend, but we will do everything we can to support you. If your family member/friend has a mobile phone, computer or tablet, they can use these to keep in touch, using our free ‘NHS WiFi’. If they do not have access to any mobile or electronic devices it may be possible to lend them one during their hospital stay via the Royal Free Charity. We'll speak to them about this.

We will also ask your family member/friend if they would like someone to be involved in conversations about their care and treatment. We will ask this individual to support us in keeping other family members and friends updated.

Download more information

More information about care in hospital for patients with COVID-19 is available in our leaflet: Information for family members and friends of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19

What do I do if I experience symptoms of COVID-19?

Please remember, if a member of your household is found to have COVID-19, this may have an impact on you. Please visit the government's website for guidance on this.

Do not leave your home if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in a 24 hour period (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

For advice on the next steps please visit: www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home or your condition gets worse, please visit: www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19. If you cannot get help online, please call 111.

To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.