With virtually all hospital visiting now stopped in the fight against COVID-19, work is underway to support patients and their families to mitigate the consequences of the move.
It’s important that we do what we can to provide ways for patients and relatives to find alternative ways to connect; ensure families are kept informed, and deal with practical issues like providing patients with clean clothes and toiletries.
All these are affected by not having visitors on the wards.
As the challenges on the health service escalate in the coming weeks, there are risks that these issues could become completely unmanageable, so changes are being put in place now.
We have free WiFi on all our sites, so we’re encouraging families and carers to speak to patients via smartphones and tablets. Apps like Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime allow video communication, but WiFi assisted phone calls and plain emails are also options.
We hope to shortly have a small stock of tablets, donated and bought by the health board, which will be available on wards for patients who do not have their own devices. We are also looking at ways to support patients who may not have the skills to still be able to take part in virtual visiting.
However for now patients who are able to should bring their own phones or tablets with them to hospital.
Usually, visitors will bring in fresh clothes for patients and take away soiled laundry, and also replace toiletries. With this no longer in place, we’ve put alternative systems in place.
We are operating a drive-through laundry swap at Morriston, Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals. We have set up a central call centre team who are liaising with relatives and carers to arrange the drop off of clearly labelled clean laundry and pick up (for now) soiled clothing.
In the coming weeks it may not be possible to return soiled laundry and we will need to dispose of it instead. We would ask families to be aware of this and not buy expensive items.
Please note: only relatives and carers who are not self-isolating with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, or who are not living with someone who is self-isolating for these reasons, are able to take part in this drive-through scheme.
Because these restrictions mean that many patients will not have family members who can provide these essentials, we have begun to build a central stock of clothing and toiletries for distribution across our sites as needed.
A social media appeal launched on Friday, 27th March, asking the public to donate clothing and toiletries via an Amazon wish list, which has had an overwhelming response. By Tuesday 31st March over 2,000 boxes of donations had arrived at Swansea Bay UHB, with more arriving by the hour.
Amazon also offered to donate 1,500 items of clothing, and one of the clothing companies included on the wish list offered to donate all profits from the sale to the health board.
Anyone wishing to donate individually should contact: email@example.com
Families often get updates on patients’ progress when they visit, or they call the ward to find out.
With face-to-face information now suspended and COVID-19 pressures growing, there is a real risk that families and carers will find it increasingly difficult to find out how their loved ones are doing.
So we now have dedicated email addresses in place to assist with this. We ask that only one member of a family or one carer is the delegated person to be the contact point, and that they then make arrangements to tell the rest of the family.
Please ensure when you email us that you provide the patient’s name, address, date of birth and Ward details (if known) to help us identify them.
If you do not have access to email, you can ring 01792 583700 to leave a message and this will be relayed to the ward once a day.
We know these changes may be unsettling, so we’re keen to hear your views – good or bad – and any ideas you may have about how we could improve them further.