Managing the supportive care needs of those affected by COVID-19

29 July 2020
Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre

Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre

Advice for clinicians helping to care for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and their families has been published in the European Respiratory Journal.  

The article outlines the key symptoms which patients affected by COVID-19 and provides guidance for professionals on the front line to help manage i) the common COVID-19 symptoms of breathlessness, cough and fever – suggesting pharmacological approaches but also non-pharmacological approaches such as breathing techniques, ii) other symptoms which also need to be addressed in patients who are affected and nearing the end of life such as delirium and anxiety and iii) where necessary, provide end of life care and support to patients and their families. It also includes information leaflets for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and their families, translated into a number of languages, which are available to download. 

Miriam Johnson, Professor of Palliative Medicine and Director of the Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre at Hull York Medical School, University of Hull contributed to the work. She says: ‘Globally the number of people affected by COVID-19 increasing. While in most cases (over 80%) of those affected by COVID-19 the illness is mild and can be managed out of hospital, about 20% of cases respiratory symptoms are severe enough to require hospital admission. Patients with severe disease are at a very high risk of distressing symptoms and of dying; we have a moral obligation to ease suffering where possible’. 

Professor Johnson believes that another important factor is the management of patients affected by COVID-19 is the psychological impact. She says: ‘we must not forget the psychological impact of COVID-19 on patients and their families. Families face a significant psychological burden which is often magnified by family members themselves being in isolation or under financial strain. Visiting is restricted and there may also be feelings of guilt over the possibility of infection being transmitted to one family member by another. Health professionals must offer psychological support – communicating with families regularly and where possible facilitating communication.  

Since being published at the beginning of April, the article has been downloaded nearly 12,000 times – demonstrating the need for clear and supportive advice and guidance.  

 The Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre at Hull York Medical School, University of Hull brings together researchers from a range of disciplines and focuses on increasing understanding and developing interventions which address the palliative care queries, concerns and needs of patients and their families. Clinical and academic researchers within the Centre work collaboratively across the UK and worldwide with the aim of widening the knowledge base of palliative care research to improve the experiences of those patients and their families living with life-limiting illnesses. 

‘Managing the supportive care needs of those affected by COVID-19', European Respiratory Journal 2020. 

Download information leaflet for Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital  

Download information leaflet for families/friends of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital 

Find out more about the work of the Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre