Some of the final moments people shared with loved ones lost to Covid-19 have been shared in a devastating report highlighting further government failures.
A University of Liverpool report looking at the impact of Covid-19 related bereavement – backed by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group – was handed to Gillian Keegan, the Minister for Care and Mental Health, this week.
The report, called The Lived Experiences of People Bereaved by Covid-19, lays bare the stark reality for those who lost loved ones to the pandemic, and fills the large gap left by the Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committee report, which laid out Government failings but did not consult with any of the families and individuals affected by the disease and its handling.
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The report's authors spoke to 28 people who lost 30 relatives to COVID-19 during the pandemic - and includes harrowing accounts of the final times those people saw their loved ones.
The report states: "Saying ‘Goodbye’ took on a new meaning for those who had to watch their loved ones being admitted. Some said goodbye never imagining it would be the last time they saw each other, while others recognised that this may be final."
Below are a number of the accounts given from loved ones about seeing their loved ones for the final time
Suzanne: “It was horrible, it was horrible because then I couldn’t go with him you see, couldn’t explain what was happening. It was- It’s the most horrible traumatic situation, I still have those pictures in my mind all the time because then he was taken to a place, to the hospital in[place] which I knew from before was a very bad hospital with bad infection control and he went to accident and emergency there and from then it went from bad to worse.”
Ann: "So, after waiting the two hours, the ambulance came and then decided they were going to admit her and they blue-lighted her then to the [name of hospital], so she got into the [name of hospital] like early hours of the Saturday morning. And my mum hated hospitals, she was crying going in saying, “Don’t make me go, come with me.” But she had to get into the ambulance and off she went on her own.”
Sonal: "They [paramedics] told me to take him for an assessment. He wanted to actually drive. And I said, “No I will drop you.” And I just dropped him, and that was it. He took his water bottle, mobile phone and his wallet, and that was it. After four months, yes, I saw his dead body. My girls and I. That was it.”
Margaret: "My mum was very, very reluctant to go to hospital… But the GP said, “No,” that she really wanted her to go up to the local hospital, and basically I had to leave her at the door.
"They wouldn’t let me in with her. I mean she didn’t have dementia or anything, but you know she was 91...and she had macular degeneration, so her eyesight was poor, and she was very deaf, and she wore two hearing aids. And she said, “If you just come in and settle me.” And I said, “Mum, I can’t, I can’t come in. I’m not allowed.”
"Then she started getting a bit upset and said, 'Margaret, don’t leave me here because I won’t ever come back home again.' She was absolutely terrified. And that was the last kind of words that I spoke to her, kind of face to face, were, “Please, don’t take me in here because I won’t come back out.”
These are just some accounts of the devastation felt by people who lost their loved ones in the most traumatic of fashions during the pandemic.
The report makes clear where the bereaved families interviewed lay the blame for the scenarios which saw their loved ones die from Covid-19.
It states: "Anger and blame is overwhelmingly directed at Government decisions that led to a failure to protect care home residents, a reluctance to close the borders, failures pertaining to PPE and the vaccine rollout, not using Nightingale hospitals sufficiently, and poor decisions regarding the first and subsequent lockdowns.
"Consequently, a great deal of cynicism and contempt for some figures in authority emerged, together with a belief that many in positions of power really did not care about lives being lost."
It adds that most of the respondents stressed the importance of a public inquiry, due in early 2022.
It states: "Some were sceptic, and others concerned (the Hillsborough Inquiry was mentioned several times) people hope for lessons to be learned and never repeated in future pandemics."
The report's co-author, Professor Lynn Sudbury-Riley, an expert in services for vulnerable people, including end of life care, in the University’s Management School – said: “This research spotlights the lived experiences of the implications of these failings, the consequences of a wide range of further weaknesses in systems and processes, and the ongoing repercussions of being bereaved by COVID-19."
Fran Hall, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: "This report demonstrates exactly why it's so important the voice of lived experience is at the very heart of the forthcoming statutory inquiry.
“For many families across the country the stories within the report will be devastatingly familiar and it sheds real insight into tragedies that have touched every corner of the UK.
"We hope the Government will read this report and start to immediately engage with those of us who have lost loved ones to the virus on the appointment of the chair and terms of reference for the inquiry.”
Co-author Dr Benito Giordano, who lost both his parents to COVID-19, added: “Transparency, the truth, and public awareness emerge as incredibly important to bereaved families.
"Many want senior people held to account but, most of all, these people want change so that in the future no-one else has to endure the lived experiences of these families.”
The report provides recommendations which the authors and the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group (CBFJ) are urging the Government to take on board.
They are as follows:
· Provision of a permanent memorial(s) to COVID-19 victims, in consultation with CBFJ, which founded and manages the National Covid Memorial Wall in London
· Improved pandemic planning across Government, NHS and social care
· An overhaul of communication practices between hospitals and families, particularly as it relates to vulnerable individuals or those with underlying health conditions
· Development of specialist bereavement services and the expansion of current counselling services
· A focus on the implications of denying cultural death rituals
· System changes to reduce the number of infections that begin in a healthcare setting (nosocomial contractions)
· More training in end-of-life care for frontline staff
· Overhaul of processes for reaching, recording and communicating Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and critical care decisions
· The Public Enquiry is brought forward, and processes are put in place to ensure it is conducted with diligence and integrity
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