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Coronavirus Resources

Meeting the psychological needs of people recovering from severe coronavirus

16 April 2020

This guidance outlines 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, our guidance recommends a three-step approach:

  1. provision of information and psychological care by staff in hospital and early follow-up after hospital discharge
  2. a structured rehabilitation package, integrating psychological aspects with our components
  3. referral to specialist psychological services if appropriate

In addition to the challenges any serious illness brings, this 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 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.

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.

Webinar

The co-leads of the guidance paper, David Murphy (President of the British Psychological Society) and Dr Dorothy Wade (Principal Health Psychologist, Critical Care, at UCLH NHS Trust), have also produced a webinar exploring how to support the rehabilitation of patients in greater depth.

View the webinar on meeting the needs of people recovering from severe coronavirus.

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