Virtual visiting at Newcastle Hospitals

Covid-19 Patients at Newcastle Hospitals are staying connected with their families thanks to new iPads being rolled out across wards.

Visiting is currently suspended because of Covid-19 but the introduction of the iPads means friends and families of patients can take part in virtual visits to stay connected.
So far, 17 iPads have been given to wards to support virtual visiting and consultation. The trust has also created a ‘keeping in touch’ email address for families to communicate with staff about their loved ones and send messages to pass on.
The Intensive Care Ward at The Royal Victoria Infirmary is one of the wards to have benefitted from the iPads so far.
Matthew Faulds, Consultant in Anaesthesia and ICM, explained the impact they are having on both staff and patients during this difficult time.
“Patients in isolation have varying communication needs, a lot are unable to speak but have families who are desperate to feel connected to them in some way. When we told families we were able offer virtual visiting they were overjoyed.
“For some families, crowded round a glowing screen, it was the first time they had seen their relative for weeks. The types of emotions that flowed out covered almost the entire spectrum from joy to sadness, excitement to frustration, confusion to acceptance and understanding. There were many tears, quite a lot of laughter and, above all, a massive outpouring of relief and thanks.
“Something that struck me was the effect on the staff involved. Although I couldn’t see their faces through all the PPE, I could tell from the way they moved and how they held their shoulders that this process had lifted a burden and taken away a little of the stress.
“It is easy to forget how deeply staff are affected by being removed from the normal human interactions we see when patients are unwell and, particularly in such difficult circumstances, it is a great relief to be able to facilitate the caring and holistic aspect of our work, not just the clinical.
“Another benefit of the iPads has been staff communication, through secure video calling; I have been able to discuss problems overnight with members of the team, meaning we can tackle more complex problems without having to use precious PPE at a time when we must take opportunities to preserve stocks.”
The project which has been led by the Patient Experience team at Newcastle Hospitals, has made use of iPads from an existing project within the Trust, as well as a further iPads which have been donated by Link MEP Consulting Engineers and John Lewis.
Dean Keith, Director of Link MEP Consulting Engineers said “We wanted to do something to help the NHS during this time, after speaking to Newcastle Hospitals and hearing about the project we knew how important the iPads would be.”
“We are really proud to be part of the project and to be able to help patients communicate with their loved ones at a time when visual contact is so important.”
Tracy Scott, Head of Patient Experience said; “Since launching virtual visiting across some of our wards, we have seen the positive benefits it has had on our staff, patients and their families.”
“The patient experience team plan to roll out more iPads across wards in the coming weeks, which will support patients and their loved ones to be able keep in touch during this difficult time.