Family Support connects patients with loved ones
Nurses at the Countess of Chester Hospital have developed a Family Support service to help patients stay in touch with loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With visiting restricted under national guidelines earlier this year, hospital staff wanted patients staying at the Countess to continue having regular access to their support networks. The service, managed by a team of nurses, acts as a bridge for patients to the outside world via emails and phone or video calls.
“Family Support has been a lifeline for so many relatives and friends of our patients at the Countess,” Matron Paula Edwards said. “If anyone gets in touch with us we will do whatever we can to help. Some people have asked us to print out pictures or messages for patients, while one family asked for a video call so they could sing to their relatives who were in hospital with coronavirus.”
Paula added: “We are very proud of the Family Support service and the comfort it has been able to provide to families at such a difficult time for everyone.”
The Family Support team liaises with families and colleagues around the hospital to identify patients who could benefit from the service, especially focusing on anyone unable to contact loved ones themselves.
Devices such as tablets and smartphones, some of which were purchased with donations to the Countess Charity via NHS Charities Together, are then made available before being deep cleaned and returned ready to be used again.
Hospital visiting was suspended nationally, apart from a few exceptional circumstances, at the end of March and the Family Support team was created at the Countess a week later. From April to September the team facilitated more than 5,000 communications, with more than 4,000 phone calls, just over 1,000 emails and 380 video calls.
A welcome benefit of this new way of working has been that patients’ friends and relatives have been able to stay in touch wherever they are around the world, with some contacts being as far away as South Africa and Australia.
These anonymised comments show how valued Family Support has been by those that have used it:
- “The Family Support team at the Countess are amazing. They’ve just whipped up with an iPad to my mum’s ward and Skyped me so she could see me and the kids. First time I’ve seen her face since the paramedics took her in eight days ago. NHS heroes.”
- “You have all walked the extra mile for myself and my family and we all appreciate it so much. You are all stars. Thank you.”
- “Your help has definitely contributed to our mum’s progress. You went in with messages and a tablet when she had Covid. You also kept us informed, which was so appreciated. You could not have done more. You have been professional, friendly and very supportive. Thank you.”
Alison Kelly, Director of Nursing and Quality and Deputy Chief Executive at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said: “Paula and the team behind the Family Support service, along with colleagues across the hospital, are a true credit to the NHS and the Countess. During one of the most challenging periods in the NHS’ history their work to champion the thoughts and feelings of our patients and their loved ones underlines our deep commitment to those we care for.”