Caring staff have helped Walsall patients make more than 700 video calls to loved ones since July – including a poorly mum who was able to see her baby on the Neonatal Unit.
The seven-day-a-week service was introduced when visiting was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and has now been hailed as a lifeline for patients.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s Patient Experience team has two Samsung tablets and two Apple i-Pads dedicated to video calling to enable patients to make four calls every half hour, each day.
The team, which has facilitated 3,330 calls, including worldwide, since 2020, receives enquiries from all areas of the hospital, mostly for keeping patients in touch with loved ones.
Reasons for the calls are varied – the Patient Experience staff have re-united patients, friends and relatives for birthdays, anniversaries and, sadly, even funerals, amongst other things. But the service has been so successful, it is here to stay.
“Since we suspended visiting at the end of July we have completed 700 video calls,” said Patient Experience Manager Andy Rice.
“The reasons can be for birthdays and anniversaries, or something else. A recent example is a mother in hospital on a ward at the same time as her new born baby was on the Neonatal Unit. We helped facilitate a call so she could see her baby.”
Calls have become more varied as the numbers of Covid patients have started to fall and the number of patients using other services has risen.
“We had a lot more patients in intensive care needing a call when it first started,” recalled Andy. “The numbers aren’t as high now, however this is due to the complexity of patients back in the peaks.”
Andy is delighted to have been able to bring some sunshine into the lives of patients at a challenging time for them.
“What has been lovely is hearing all the positive feedback from those loved ones we have made calls for,” he added.
“We sometimes forget how important contact is when people are in hospital and we have had cards and chocolates thanking the team for facilitating the calls.
“The video calling service has been a lifeline for many of our patients. It has helped them stay in touch with their loved ones in their hour of need.
“I am so proud of the welcome hub team running this seven-day service. They work hard to ensure everyone that wants a call can have one.
“This is a legacy service that’s here to stay and is another way we can help support our patients, families and carers. Nothing can replace the contact a person visit can bring; however I’m glad we’re able to offer something to help during this difficult time.”
Governance Facilitator – Medicine and Long-Term Conditions Lisa Meakin was in a role similar to Andy’s during the first part of the pandemic.
She said: “My stand-out memory was an elderly patient on Ward 2 who was Italian and had limited command of English. To see her face light up when she spoke to family was amazing to be part of.
“On speaking to staff, I know how much of a difference this made to this patient’s experience for both her family – who were reassured when they could see and speak to her – and the patient, who though very poorly, really perked up during these calls.”
Lisa added: “I feel really proud and privileged to have been part of this project during such a difficult period during COVID and have many fond memories, particularly working with the medical students and redeployed clinical staff.
“They gave real impetus to the project during the early stages of the service, ironing out any issues and finding the best ways of delivering the service. They were fundamental in helping the Patient Experience team in delivering the service.”
Patients are invited to book video calls via the welcome hub by calling 01922 444040.