Hospital patients in Hartlepool see visitors virtually on donated iPads

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, some families have been unable to see relatives who live in care homes. Credit: PA

Hospital patients in Hartlepool, who are unable to have visitors because of the pandemic, can now see loved ones virtually.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, some families have been unable to see relatives who live in care homes.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has implemented a new system where patients who can't use a phone can enjoy virtual visits on an iPad.

There is also a new password system to allow a nominated family member to access updates.

Most patients prefer to speak with family members themselves, allowing Trust staff to focus on providing updates for patients who are unable or feel too unwell to make a call. The password system maintains confidentiality at all times.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

For the Virtual Visits, using donated iPads, the Trust has allocated several administration staff who will go to the ward at the time of the ‘visit’ and set up a video-call for the patient and their loved ones at home.

Stephen Green, Associate Director of Risk & Governance, said: “We know how hard it is for patients and their loved ones to be separated, but the need to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and its risk to our patients and staff left us no choice but to stop all visits in person.

“On some wards, the enhanced levels of Personal Protection Equipment make answering a ringing telephone more difficult than usual due to the time needed to remove the equipment safely. A regular update call as agreed by the patient themselves, using the patient password, is always advised rather than just calling for that important update.

We also have a duty to also maintain the confidentiality of our patients and therefore Virtual Visits and telephone updates can only take place with the express permission of the patient, so we encourage families to have these discussions.

Stephen Green, Associate Director of Risk & Governance

“We all hope the day we can open up our hospitals for visiting again comes sooner rather than later, until then, our staff will be hard at work caring for our patients and maintaining the safest possible environment.”

The Trust says it continues to have processes in place to ensure patients at end-of-life, patients with dementia, (John’s Campaign) and patients with certain learning difficulties can have visits in hospital following discussion with the ward matron, recognising the risk to the visitor and patients in these situations.