How virtual visiting is helping hospital patients in Sunderland and South Tyneside stay connected to loved ones

Virtual visiting is helping hospital patients in Sunderland and South Tyneside keep in touch with their loved ones during the pandemic.

Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 1:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 1:28 pm

Stroke patient Michael Mouat discovered he was to become a great-grandfather for the first time via a video call with his family from his bed in Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Mr Mouat, 69, of South Shields, was admitted to hospital during the pandemic following a stroke that left him with significant language difficulties meaning he was unable to call and speak to his family.

When speech and language therapist Caroline Ewers rang his loved ones to update them, it was mentioned that Mr Mouat’s grand-daughter, Alex, had discovered that she was expecting a baby boy in the autumn.

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Speech and Language Therapist Caroline Ewers and IT Infrastructure Technician Sean Hutchinson used an iPad to help the family share some exciting news.

Caroline felt such wonderful news should come from the family and a video call was arranged so that Mr Mouat’s son and grand-daughter could tell him together.

Mr Mouat’s son, also called Michael, said: “Given the circumstances with not being able to visit Dad in hospital, the video call we had was a Godsend.

“Updates from staff are great but it’s not the same as seeing the person and it made us feel so much better when we could see him. Video calling is an excellent way to help hospital patients and their families to stay in touch.”

Caroline added: “The video call was the first time Michael had seen his loved ones since his admission to hospital and he cried and laughed throughout.

“Despite being unable to say very much, it was clear that this interaction meant so much to him.

"Supporting Michael and his family to communicate was so lovely and very emotional – it’s a moment I will never forget. Visiting restrictions have had a huge impact on our inpatients and we should never underestimate how important that contact is. The iPads are a great way for staff to support families to stay in touch.”

With visiting at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital suspended due to coronavirus, staff have been enabling patients to see and speak to their loved ones via Face Time.

For those who do not have a smartphone or tablet, the Trust has been rolling out face-to-face video calls with family and friends using an iPad with pre-installed technology.

And as well as virtual visiting, families have been sending messages, letters and photographs to their loved ones in hospital via the #SendingLove initiative.

Melanie Johnson, executive director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “We know how important visiting is to patients, and their relatives, friends and carers. Sadly, we had to suspend it to protect our patients as we deal with Covid-19, apart from in exceptional circumstances such as when a patient is believed to be in the last hours of their life. However, we continue to review this position and are doing everything we possibly can to still provide our patients with vital links to their loved ones.”

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