Two in five hospital patients never have any visitors – and it could affect their recovery

Laura Donnelly
Nurses said lonely patients tend to stay longer in hospital - PA

Two in five hospital patients never have any visitors, research suggests.

A poll of 200 hospital nurses for the Royal Voluntary Service found many believed the lack of contact had a detrimental effect on patient recovery.

Such patients were less likely to be stimulated by conversation, or to move from their beds, and less likely to follow the medical advice they were given. 

Nurses said such patients also tended to end up staying longer in hospital.

Sam Ward, director of commissioned services for Royal Voluntary Service, said: “It is sad that so many patients don’t have any visitors while they are in hospital, a time when a support system is most needed, but it’s not always possible for family and friends to visit, particularly if they don’t live nearby. 

“Human contact is a crucial part of recovery and that’s why we’re so passionate about ensuring everyone has the option of being supported by volunteers.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “These findings come as no surprise. It makes absolute sense that having someone to talk to, someone to provide reassurance and help make sure you are comfortable can make all the difference. It is heart breaking to think of older patients who, for whatever reason, do not have regular visitors to support them at a difficult time."

 

Susan Webster, a senior charge nurse at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said: "Volunteers make a real difference to the ward and we are lucky to have such a dedicated volunteer team.

"They provide company for the patients, some of whom don't get any visitors and can be left feeling isolated.

"You can't put a price on the value of that social interaction, especially for our older patients."

The Royal Voluntary Service runs several hospital services including assistance with meals, patient transport, trolley services and volunteer-run cafes and shops.