TECH CLEVERNESS KEEPS THE CARED FOR CONNECTED DURING COVID CRISIS


Hospital patients and care home residents across Coventry and Warwickshire are being helped to stay in touch with family and friends during the COVID-19 crisis - thanks to innovative use of technology.

Social distancing guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus mean that many families and friends cannot visit each other in hospital or care settings.

South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Warwick, Leamington, Stratford and Ellen Badger hospitals has launched a Post4Patients service. 

This new service allows loved ones to send personal stories, photos and messages to patients by emailing secure inbox post4patients@swft.nhs.uk.

Alongside this, the trust has received donated mobile phones and iPads which patients can use to talk to families and friends.

Helen Lancaster, Director of Operations at SWFT said: “It is extremely important for the wellbeing of our patients that they are able to keep in contact with loved ones during these challenging times and to support this we have launched a dedicated post service for them. With the help of volunteers, we are able to get heart felt messages to our patients from their friends and families.

“We have also been overwhelmed by extremely generous donations of iPads and mobile phones for the wards, enabling patients to keep in touch with their families. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteers and the local companies who have helped make this possible.”

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust – which also includes Hospital of St Cross at Rugby - has introduced ‘Thinking of You’, an online service through which loved ones can send messages and photographs by filling in an online form at www.uhcw.nhs.uk.

The daughter of one patient commented: “The ‘Thinking of You’ message was a great way to encourage my mum to stay strong and to remind her that even if we are out of sight she is never out of our mind. She phoned me and cried when she received all of her messages. It really made her feel loved.”

At George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, staff have launched the ‘Letters for Loved Ones’ scheme.

Messages, letters and photographs to patients can be sent by email to LoveLetters@geh.nhs.uk, or via a phone call or a text message to 07818 510483.

Relatives and friends are asked to provide the patient’s full name, date of birth and the ward that they are staying on.

A team of specially-trained volunteers then ensure messages are delivered to the patients on the wards. 

Patient Experience Manager, Becky Millward said, “We understand it’s an extremely difficult time when loved ones are in hospital however we hope that this service will provide comfort to both the patients and to their families and friends at home.” 

Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust – which provides a wide range of mental health and learning disability services for people of all ages in Coventry and Warwickshire and a wide range of community physical health services for people in Coventry – have provided patients with access to tablets to make video calls.

Staff are also supporting patients with using WhatsApp.

Medical Director Dr Sharon Binyon said: “We know how difficult it can be for our patients to spend time on a ward with the current visiting restrictions. Being able to hear the voice or see the face of a loved one makes such a difference to our patients’ health and mental wellbeing. To help our patients stay connected with their loved ones, we have given those who do not have access to personal devices, iPads to be able to make video calls. Our staff are also supporting patients with 8x8 video calls.

“Staying connected is important as it helps support emotional wellbeing. It can also help reduce anxiety and stress by taking service users away from their current situation and giving them the opportunity to share happy memories or talk about their plans for the future.”

Warwickshire care homes are also rising to the new challenges of keeping families connected.

Staff at Galanos House, in Southam are providing access to online applications  Zoom, Skype and Facetime, and also has a closed Facebook page where staff share pictures and videos of residents and where loved ones send messages back.

The daughter of one resident who suffers from dementia uses the technology to read her mum a book – something she always did whenever she visited in person prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The care home has also had several ‘virtual’ birthday parties for residents, meaning that families can still sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and be part of the celebrations.

Pete Sidgwick Assistant Director of Adult Social Care at Warwickshire County Council said: “Helping residents look after their health and wellbeing is so important at the moment and these measures have been introduced with this in mind.

“We are working closely with our commissioned services and partners to ensure that while we are all following social distancing, friends and families can keep in touch with their loved ones while they are in hospitals or social care. 

“Technology means that we can keep people connected, whether this is through sending messages, talking over the phone or even video calls. It’s great for patients to know that loved ones at home are thinking of them, even when they can’t visit.”

Coventry City Council is also helping those it cares for stay in touch with loved ones.

With an average age of 90 and diagnoses of dementia and various other underlying health conditions, the residents of care home Eric Williams House in Coventry are in the very high-risk group.

Staff there are utilising the ‘Hangouts’ app, Skype video calls, WhatsApp and Facebook. 

Some residents are facetiming loved ones for the first time ever. 
 
For residents unable to use technology to the same extent, team leaders contact families weekly and send photographs via email or post letters.
 
The daughter of one resident messaged staff: “Just seen the updates on Facebook and I’m sitting here crying happy tears. You are all so amazing and are literally our lifeline. I know you are under a lot of pressure and probably have high anxiety but yet you carry on with the same happy faces and loving nature you always have. I really don’t know what we would do without you, you are not only a tower of strength for the residents and each other but for us families too. You truly are heroes and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for everything you do, I clap harder and louder every week for you, you are beautiful, wonderful people and I just had to tell you that.”

Coventry City Councillor Mal Mutton, Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: “This is such a difficult and uncertain time for everyone, so it is fantastic see staff at Eric Williams House going to such lengths to look after not only their residents but also the residents’ families.” 
 

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