Video calls help lonely hospital patients connect with loved ones

Patients at hospitals across Sufflk and north Essex are being encouraged to stay in touch with loved

Patients at hospitals across Sufflk and north Essex are being encouraged to stay in touch with loved ones by using iPads for video calls. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant

Hospital patients are feeling more isolated than ever now that visiting from friends, family and loved ones is restricted – so doctors and nurses in Suffolk and north Essex are helping them to connect in other ways.

Staff at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, which are run by the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), are encouraging patients to engage in activities which will stop them from feeling as lonely while they aren’t allowed any visitors.

Rebecca Pulford, associate director of nursing at ESNEFT, came up with the idea to help patients and said: “We understand just how difficult it can be to spend time in hospital without visitors, but are keen to do whatever we can to help make admissions easier for both our patients and their loved ones.

“We hope that these tools will help us support mental and emotional wellbeing and reduce isolation, so that we can care for people’s heads as well as their bodies.”

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Visitors have been asked to provide pictures of patients with their loved ones and staff are being urged to talk to their patients about their photographs, so that they can chat about them, share any worries or anxieties and think about things they are looking forward to and times when they were at their happiest.

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iPhones and iPads are being provided for activities such as FaceTime with relatives or texting.

People are being advised to keep their conversations upbeat, happy and focus on good times and looking forward to the future.

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Staff have also been encouraging patients to use a more traditional style of communication by writing letters to their loved ones.

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At West Suffolk Hospital, iPads have been distributed to every ward and, as well as virtual visitors, the chaplaincy team is on hand 24 hours a day to video call.

A spokesperson for the hospital said: “Helping patients and their loved ones to keep in touch is so important at what we know is an especially difficult time.

“We’re trying to utilise digital and traditional technology to make this easier, and it’s been wonderful to see the difference this is already making.”

Family members simply have to request a slot online and a member of team will set up a call for them.

A virtual clinical helpline has also been established so relatives of patients can get updates.

Leaflets with advice for staff, patients and visitors at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are available on the ESNEFT website.

For those visiting patients at West Suffolk Hospital, visit their ‘Keeping in touch’ page.

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