Let parents see their children in hospital

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Can you imagine being separated from your sick child with no access for weeks on end? Can you imagine getting the worst news about your child’s health alone? Or sitting alone next to your sick child’s bed? It’s quite simply heartbreaking. But that's the reality for families like ours at the moment.

At the beginning of lockdown our second child arrived. A beautiful baby boy. After a stint at home our son got really sick. We spent most of May and June in various hospitals. In all that time, except for 12 hours when we weren’t sure if he would pull through, hospital visiting policies meant I was the only person allowed to be with him. Not even his dad could visit him with me. 

That meant I was left alone to hear Drs say things you never want to hear. Left alone to make life and death decisions about my son’s care. Left alone to sit by his bedside not being able to sleep for days on end because I couldn’t swap with a family member. For a week of that time he was on a ventilator in intensive care. It. Was. Hell. There are no words I can put together here to describe to you what it was like. With my partner there it would have been horrific. Without him it was torture.

The whole time I was surrounded by other parents going through the same thing. One mum I made friends with had sat next to her newborn who was on a ventilator, for 8 weeks. Alone.

And of course this whole time my partner was locked out of the hospital, locked out of our son’s life. He had NO access to his child lying critically ill in a hospital. My friend's partner had barely ever met his two month old daughter. That too is torture.

This family separation is unnecessary. Some children’s hospitals such as Great Ormond Street already allow two people per child for inpatient stays. If they can do it why can’t others?? There is just no consistency in Children’s hospital visiting policies across NHS trusts. Every neonatal unit seems to have a different policy. At most of the hospitals I was in parents were tested weekly. For them it would merely require more tests to let another parent or family member visit. And considering the vast majority of the parents who are with their children are spending time with family outside the hospital as well, the risk does not really increase. For those trusts who don’t test parents, testing two people would be safer than one untested parent. The government are currently shouting about plans to test people so they can go to the theatre. If they can do that they can do this?! 

As lockdowns are reimposed and regulations constantly changed visiting policies don’t seem to be on the agenda. Apparently under a lockdown you can still go the pub, to the shopping centre, go grouse shooting, play football. But across the UK lockdown or not families with loved ones in hospital are still being ripped apart at the worst times in their lives. 

With Covid not going away anytime soon we need to reevaluate policies and look for long term measures that prioritise people.

Yes the economy matters. But Family, friends, love, support, these things matter too! 

A sick child needs their parents. A parent with a sick child needs access to their child. Anyone going through the hell of their child in hospital needs support. 

I’m calling for Matt Hancock and all the NHS trusts to change their policies and allow two people to be with a sick child, in neonatal units and in children’s hospitals.