Children of NHS staff sent away ‘like evacuees’

Some NHS workers are sending their children to live with relatives in a bid to protect their loved ones from Covid-19.

Staff caring for Covid-19 patients on the front line are fearful of catching the new coronavirus themselves and potentially passing the infection on to their loved ones.

In a bid to protect their families, some NHS workers have taken steps to isolate themselves outside of work.

Sending children to stay with grandparents, aunts and uncles is one step some NHS staff have chosen to take.

The situation has been likened to children being evacuated from big cities during the Second World War to protect them from bomb raids.

Other NHS workers have started living in hotels, hostels and other temporary accommodation as they care for coroanvirus patients.

The PA news agency has seen information from frontline nurses who said they have sent their children away for weeks on end while they deal with the crisis.

One nurse said: “My daughter is staying with her dad, I’m working on a Covid ward. It’s really hard but I can’t take the risk of bringing it home.”

Another said: “[My daughter] had to go and live with my sister unfortunately as the risk is just too great.”

Other medics have also taken precautions including moving out of the family home or ceasing physical contact altogether.

One Glasgow GP described how he is still sharing a roof, but is isolating himself from his wife, son and newborn baby in order to protect them.

Sandesh Gulhane’s baby girl is just one week old but he has only held her once – after she was born by caesarean section in a sterile operating theatre.

He told PA that he wanted to do “everything” he possibly can to keep his family safe.

“I am basically socially distancing myself from my family,” Dr Gulhane said.

“I say hello, but I don’t hug my six-day-old child, my six-year-old son, I don’t go near my wife.

“I sleep in a separate room, I use a separate bathroom, I eat separately to them.”


He urged people to stay at home, adding: “I am sacrificing my family life and people can’t sacrifice having a BBQ.”

Meanwhile, a consultant anaesthetist in South Wales said he has removed himself from the family home in order to protect his wife who had a kidney transplant seven years ago.

Dr Craig Williams, who donated his kidney to his wife, now only sees his wife and 15-year-old daughter in person through the window when dropping off supplies.

“It is the reality of what people are going through and it is hard,” said Dr Williams, who is living alone in a holiday cottage. “We’re envisaging this for another 11 to 12 weeks.”

Liam Barnes, chairman of the Laura Hyde Foundation, which provides mental health support for medical and emergency services personnel, said: “Rising numbers of nurses are sending their children away to live with grandparents, relatives and friends in fear of catching or exposing Covid-19 to their loved ones.

“The scenes we are witnessing evoke memories of the wartime evacuations – but this is the reality facing frontline emergency workers.

“To carry on working and to protect others they are making the ultimate sacrifice. What more powerful message could there be – than the isolation nurses now face – for staying at home.”

NEW: helpline and text service launched for NHS staff 📞💬

All NHS staff in England will be able to get support in many areas — from coaching and bereavement care to mental health and welfare support.


— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) April 8, 2020

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, treasurer for the British Medical Association and consultant neurologist, added: “The tremendous effort that doctors and NHS staff across the UK are making in the battle against Covid-19 does not always stop at the front line.

“As well as working tirelessly to protect and save the lives of patients, many are having to make the incredibly difficult sacrifice of not seeing their families and loved ones.

“We know that doctors are more likely to come into contact with the virus in the course of treating patients, and as such, many are having to make significant changes to how they live and interact with their families in order to limit the spread of the virus.

“Not enough can be said of the incredible effort and sacrifice that doctors and NHS staff throughout the UK are making during these trying times. Their contribution is massively valued and appreciated.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said on Wednesday that a lack of protective gear has led to nurses “facing impossible decisions between their own or their family’s health and their sense of duty”.

The college has heard from nurses who have isolated themselves away from their loved ones in order to keep them safe.

Susan Masters, the director for nursing, policy and practice at the RCN, said: “We have called on the Government urgently to increase staff testing so that nurses who test negative can come out of isolation and return to work. But it is no surprise that nursing staff are taking the instruction to self-isolate when they exhibit symptoms extremely seriously.”