The British Psychological Society (BPS) has published new guidance outlining how healthcare providers can meet the psychological needs of people who have been hospitalised with severe coronavirus.
Focusing on patients who are recovering from severe illness but continue to experience significant physical and psychological symptoms, the guidance recommends a three-step approach to support.
The three steps are: provision of information and psychological care by staff in hospital and early follow-up after hospital discharge; a structured rehabilitation package, integrating psychological aspects with their components; and referral to specialist psychological services if appropriate.
In addition to the challenges any serious illness brings, the guidance highlights some specific aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic which may increase the risks of psychological difficulties:
- Physical barriers to seeing and communicating with staff due to personal protective equipment
- Social isolation as a result of loved ones being unable to visit
- Common ICU (intensive care unit) environmental stressors such as noise, alarms, lack of daylight and disruption of patients’ circadian rhythms exacerbated by conditions in ICUs during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Witnessing other patients on ventilators and/or deaths.
- Concerns about effect of lack of staffing and equipment on care.
BPS President, David Murphy, said: ‘The experience of severe coronavirus can lead not only to long term physical but also psychological consequences, and promoting recovery will involve meeting both physical and psychological needs.
‘However, not all people recovering from severe coronavirus will require the same level of help: our guidance defines a stepped, needs-based approach. This enables health professionals to respond to individual needs and provide appropriate psychological care at each stage of a person’s illness and recovery.
‘We also highlight the psychological needs of relatives and carers who are clearly also affected by the person’s illness and possibly change what they are able to do. We know that addressing their psychological needs will also aid the patient’s recovery.’
Based on emerging knowledge and clinical experience during the current pandemic, the guidance also draws on prior research from the SARS and MERS outbreaks, which suggests that psychological consequence was more severe among people who contracted these infections, compared to other critically ill patients.
The guidance is available to download on the BPS website.
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