We cannot abandon bereaved families – we need a coronavirus helpline now

I am calling for a new national 24-hour Covid-19 support line for families who have seriously ill or deceased loved ones, writes MP Seema Malhotra

Wednesday 01 April 2020 17:59 BST
The service could provide everything from emotional support to guidance about memorials
The service could provide everything from emotional support to guidance about memorials

In recent weeks, the country has changed beyond recognition. One major new reality with which we are having to come to terms is death. Unlike diseases such as cancer, which often allow at least some time to be spent with dying loved ones, coronavirus can turn families’ lives upside down overnight.

In 2014, my father passed away in a hospice, 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer. At the time, the support provided to us by Macmillan was second to none. When he went into palliative care, we were referred to a Macmillan team in the hospital. With kindness and compassion, they took us every step of the way until the day my father died, and were there for us in the aftermath.

Thousands of families are currently being hit by a far more sudden tragedy, with loved ones becoming critically ill and dying without being able to hold them or be with them; or, due to social isolation, to hold or be with one another. The sense of helplessness, isolation and grief is being compounded without ways to reach out and get support. Coping with the emotional and practical repercussions of this loss will be even harder, when support services are already under strain. But the need for support and guidance and counselling is greater than ever – for partners, for children and for other family members.

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