Patients use technology to talk to loved ones

Posted: 01/07/20

A Newcastle hospital has been helping patients talk to loved ones, thanks to a donation of new technology.

Castleside Unit based at the Campus of Ageing and Vitality, now has two iPads allowing families to connect while visitors aren’t allowed into the ward.

The ward has been unable to admit visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions, meaning many patients have gone months without seeing their families in real life. Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) distributed iPads in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with priority given to wards who had expressed an interest in the use of technology to support patient care.

Laura Gibbons, advanced practitioner on the ward, said: “The pilot has come with its challenges as we’re working with people with dementia, but overall the experience has been extremely positive.

“It’s been a pleasure to see families connect, there’s been some really special moments. One patient celebrated her birthday and being able to see her family’s faces, albeit not in real life, meant so much to her. It’s not just our patients who benefit, you can see how much the families get from it as well.”

Part of CNTW, a provider of mental health and disability services, Castleside is an inpatient unit for older people with health problems arising from disorders such as dementia. The service now offers the iPads as a communications option to all families when their loved one comes on to the ward.

The daughter of one patient said: “For me and my sister, being able to speak to Dad on the phone every day was fantastic but the video calls have been what can only be described as a lifeline. Being able to see Dad as well as hear his voice has brought us reassurance and joy.

“Seeing him smile, being able to share stories and fully engage with him has been invaluable at a time when visits aren’t allowed. I don’t live nearby so video calling helps remove the distance and helps me feel close to Dad.
“I can’t thank the team enough and would recommend this for anyone as families will cherish this time. Thank you so much for all it has meant in these uncertain times.”

Another family member said: “I wanted to express how much I appreciated the use of video call technology whilst my dad has been in hospital. I had been used to visiting once or twice a week so it was very upsetting not being able to visit at all.

“Being able to video call dad and see him in the flesh was wonderful. It has been a lifeline for me and my family. Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to have that time and I hope that it’s used in the future to bring other families together.”

The ward has also been able to use the iPads for other purposes since their delivery in May, including simulated presence therapy, an emotion-orientated intervention for people with dementia.

Staff worked with a family member to record a scripted video message telling their loved one they missed them and recalling fond memories which the patient can watch back. This is something that the ward hasn’t been able to do before because the technology wasn’t available.

Adam Johnson, informatics project lead at CNTW, said: “There is no doubt that the digital response to Covid-19 in the form of Microsoft Teams has been nothing short of a revelation for staff, but that’s not the whole story – it’s had a major impact on patients too.

“As Microsoft Teams proved to be such a success in the response to COVID-19, the Trust decided to provide every inpatient ward with an iPad to support clinical care and give the patients a much-needed boost in tough times.

“Patients’ wellbeing is very important to the Trust. Having access to iPads and MS Teams has allowed patients to speak to loved ones, seek help from care providers and generally feel connected. The quick response in sending out iPads to those in need and the readiness of staff and patients alike to use them, has been a lifeline in these strange times. “