Coronavirus: guidance for patients and visitors

Coronavirus: guidance for patients and visitors

Worried about coronavirus?

The health and safety of our patients, visitors and staff is our absolute priority and we have robust procedures to prevent infection and transmission. 

Outpatient appointments 

Most outpatient appointments have switched to telephone consultations and patients should not come into our hospitals unless we call them. Administration teams are contacting all patients to confirm these arrangements. Please also see the section below. 

Reducing the spread of infection

The Government and Chief Medical Officer have highlighted the importance of following national guidance to flatten the curve of infection of the coronavirus. 

The curve is the projected number of people who will contract the virus over a period of time. A shallower upwards curve would mean a slower infection rate. 

Actions such as washing your hands and social distancing are vital in ensuring a more even spread rate of infection. This will mean that the NHS is better able to manage and will ultimately save lives. 

The guidance on this page will provide advice on appointments, visiting our hospitals and who to contact if you have symptoms. Please check regularly for updates. 

Please also note that this information can easily be translated into a number of languages. Here are some instructions:

  • Click on the globe icon in the top right hand corner of our website page to view this information in your first language
  • Then select a language drop down option box should appear at the top of the page
  • Click on your preferred language and the website content should be converted into that language.

Coronavirus information in other languages

Guidance on visiting our hospitals

In line with national guidance, and to ensure the safety of our patients and staff, we are not allowing any visitors into our hospitals. 

Visitors will only be allowed into clinical areas if the patient is:

  • at the end of their life 
  • a child 
  • lacks capacity
  • is giving birth

Only one visitor at a time will be allowed in these cases.

If you are having a baby at one of our hospitals 

Due to the unprecedented situation we have to take extraordinary protective measures to minimise the risk of harm for mums, dads, babies and families.

Pregnancy: During antenatal appointments (community or hospital) visitors will be requested to wait outside the room. This includes attendances to scanning, triage and day assessment unit (DAU). Where possible please do not bring children to your appointments. We will provide free scanning pictures to everyone.

Birth: One visitor (without cough OR fever) can stay with the mother throughout “established” labour, birth and the immediate postnatal period. If birth needs to happen in theatre – such us with instrumental birth or caesarean - the visitor will be requested to wait in the labour/recovery room. No swapping of visitors is permitted.

Postnatal:  No visitors permitted for postnatal mothers at anytime, anywhere in the Maternity building. Where safe to do so we will encourage early discharge home. At discharge your partner or family member can pick you up at the ground floor reception area by security. Maternity staff will support this support.


Homebirths are generally safe for healthy mothers having straightforward pregnancies, but to be as safe as possible they require reliable emergency transfer services. The London Ambulance Service is currently experiencing very high demand, and we cannot guarantee a timely response should mothers require a transfer to some of our hospital sites. Until the emergency transfer services are back to normal, we are suspending the home birth service at Newham and Whipps Cross Hospitals.

The Royal London Hospital is still offering a homebirth service but only for mothers living in Tower Hamlets.

Attending your appointments

Outpatient appointments

To help keep our patients and our staff safe during the coronavirus pandemic we are changing most of our outpatient appointments to telephone and video consultations.

Telephone appointments will take place in English. Please arrange a trusted person if you will need an interpreter for the call, or call the number on your appointment letter if you need us to arrange this support.

Please don’t come to our hospitals for an appointment unless we ask you to.

If we ask you to go to hospital for a face-to-face appointment, please attend as normal. Please consider whether it is absolutely necessary to bring friends or family members with you.

Patients with appointments at one of our hospitals should bring their original appointment letter with them in case they are asked about their reason for travel. 


Like all NHS organisations, we are making changes to our endoscopy services, following advice from the British Society of Gastroenterologists. This means that some procedures will continue as planned, some will be postponed, and others will be cancelled. We understand that this will be difficult and upsetting for some patients, but these changes are necessary to reduce the risks of transmission of coronavirus to patients and staff. Our team is contacting patients to let them know what this means for their individual situation. Please do not come into hospital for any planned endoscopy appointment or procedure unless we ask you to.

If you have not heard from us and are not sure whether to attend, please contact us.

Diagnostic testing

We are postponing most non-urgent diagnostic testing, including ultrasound, Xray, CT, MRI, echocardiography and holter monitoring. Your team will contact you to let you what this means for your planned test.

Urgent tests will continue and we will telephone you to confirm your appointment. Please do not attend your appointment unless you have been asked to come in.

Cancelling appointments

If you are self-isolating and have an appointment at one of our hospitals, please contact our appointments teams to cancel or re-arrange. 

Your upcoming surgery

All NHS hospitals across the country have been asked to make as many staff, beds and equipment available as possible. This is to help us we prepare for an increase in the number of coronavirus patients who will need intensive care.

In line with national guidance, we are postponing almost all non-urgent surgery, apart from cancer treatment and life-saving operations, for the next four months.

We will contact all patients affected as soon as possible.

This is an incredibly difficult decision, but will enable us to free up beds and staff to treat Covid-19 patients.

We would like to apologise for the distress and disappointment this delay will no doubt cause you.

For more information on changes to elective surgery, read our frequently asked questions here.

Medical help and advice

Symptoms of coronavirus

Please follow the guidance below if you are displaying symptoms of a high temperature (37.8 degrees or higher) or a new continuous cough:

  • if you live alone and you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. 
  • if you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days
  • the 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. For anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period.

If you have coronavirus symptoms:

  • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
  • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home 
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
  • if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999

The advice provided will help to protect others in your community while you are infectious.

Like the common cold, coronavirus infection usually occurs through close contact with a person with novel coronavirus via cough and sneezes or hand contact. A person can also catch the virus by touching contaminated surfaces if they do not wash their hands.

Testing of suspected coronavirus cases is carried out in line with strict guidelines. This means that suspected cases are kept in isolation, away from public areas of GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals and returned home also in isolation. Any equipment that comes into contact with suspected cases are thoroughly cleaned as appropriate. Specific guidance has also been shared with NHS staff to help safeguard them and others. Patients can be reassured that their safety is a top priority, and are encouraged to attend all appointments as usual.

Protecting yourself and others

Everyone is being reminded to following Public Health advice to:
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Stay at home for 7 days if you have a high temperature or a new, continuous cough

Further information

Information in other languages and formats

We would like to provide as much information in as many formats as possible and we are working to make this happen. Please check regularly for updates. 

Other organisations

A number of organisations and charities have also created a range of useful information. These include –

Public Health England

Doctors of the World  

Chronically awesome

BBC newsround (information for young people)

World Health Organisation – Frequently asked questions

Please bear in mind that the guidance is constantly being updated and amended in line with circumstances, so may not always be up to date. We will add to the list above in as and when appropriate.

We will make every effort to ensure that the information and resources provided by Barts Health NHS Trust are as up to date as possible.

Social distancing and staying at home (isolating)

Public Health England has created some advice around social distancing and self-isolating.

They have outlined the following steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible
  • Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this and there is also guidance available.
  • Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

You'll need to stay at home if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does.

Staying at home means you should:

  • not go to work, school or public areas
  • not use public transport or taxis
  • not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
  • not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home
  • You can use your garden, if you have one. You can also leave the house to exercise – but stay at least 2 metres away from other people.

A range of advice is available on helping you with social distancing and isolating yourself. Including some handy tips and advice on things to do.

Working with the Community

We are focused on supporting our patients and families, along with our staff and the wider community. Together with our local partners we are working to provide as much information, support and resources as possible.

People across the country are also offering their own help and support to help the vulnerable in their communities, including by putting leaflets through doors, helping at your local food bank, at your local community centre/charity or with local faith groups.

Please also see the section on information in other languages and formats. Some of our local partners include -

  • Next door (to create groups for helping vulnerable neighbours)

Travel advice

Whilst travel history is not the sole factor for diagnosis the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised all British people against all but essential travel worldwide due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. Their latest travel advice for each country is available on the on the website.

If you have travelled and do not have symptoms then you do not need to stay at home, regardless of travel history. Please seek advice from NHS 111 or visit the NHS website if you have concerns.