Your article on hospital Covid deaths (Up to 8,700 patients died after catching Covid in English hospitals, 24 May), followed by Dominic Cummings’ revelations, have caused renewed anguish in our house. My husband, Douglas Worrall, was a fit and active 87-year-old with no underlying health problems, but last December an ear infection took him to our local hospital, where he was advised to have in-patient antibiotic treatment. We were fearful of Covid but agreed.
After 1 January, visiting was stopped and I couldn’t see him any more; I could only have fractured mobile phone conversations. Three weeks later he tested positive for the virus, and he died in early February.
He had been first placed in a surgical ward where there was traffic from incoming cases, often as emergency admissions. “I wake up next to someone different every day,” he told me. The beds were not divided or screened. The few single rooms were all occupied; my husband was deemed low-risk.
Staff worked tirelessly to try to keep Covid patients separated from non-Covid ones, but their efforts were doomed to fail, partly because of ward layouts and delays in getting test results, and also because, as a consultant said of the virus to me, “It’s everywhere, it’s in the air.” Infection control just wasn’t effective.
It seems that many in government are not up to the task when a real crisis comes along, including some in the highest office. Not just in the current cohort, but those of recent decades too, when no one thought through at a deep-enough level what would actually be needed should such an emergency loom. As we have seen heard, planning was nonexistent.
On reflection, at a personal level we should have asked a lot more questions – about comparative Covid rates at the local area hospitals, what were the infection controls, how would my husband be kept safe, what kind of ward would he be in? One tends toward grateful passivity in the face of the great machinery of the NHS.
The worst thing for me and my husband was that after 50 years of close companionship and life lived as one, I couldn’t be there for the last five weeks of his life to help cheer, nurse and comfort. This will be true for so many families.