5000 virtual hospital visits!

27th May 2021

The Southern Trust Virtual Visiting Service, which connects patients with their loved ones, has celebrated making their 5000th call.

This new initiative to the Trust was rolled out in July 2020 to help patients and families stay connected despite restricted visiting arrangements due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Neal Morgan (Renal Consultant and Co Virtual Visiting Lead) said that the service uses tablet devices to connect families at home to their loved ones in hospital and aims to bring some comfort for them at what is a difficult time.

“For an extended period during the COVID-19 pandemic, visiting to all hospitals was suspended, except in end-of-life and other exceptional circumstances.

“This meant many patients and service users had no contact with family and friends throughout their stay in hospital. Many of our patients had no access to mobile phones or other devices to enable them to stay in touch with their families and friends virtually.

“We introduced person-centered Virtual Visiting as a pilot scheme at Craigavon Area Hospital 10 months ago to assist our patients to keep in touch with loved ones and were delighted to roll-it out across all of our sites very quickly. We are thrilled to have surpassed the 5,000 call total, meaning we have connected over 10,000 people during the pandemic.

Mairead Casey (Co Virtual Visiting Lead) said that figure is probably a lot higher.

“Those who have used the virtual visiting service have told us how much they value not only speaking to their loved one in hospital but also being able to see them.

“The great thing about virtual visiting is that it also enables relatives to speak to their loved ones via group calls wherever they are in the country or in some cases from all over the world.

“Although face-to-face visiting is slowly restarting, our hope is that our virtual visiting service will continue to complement the new hospital visiting guidelines and our intention is to develop this service further, something we have recently done with the introduction of the Virtual Post-box.

“We are also incredibly grateful to all those who have donated tablets to the Service to enable us to undertake these calls.

“The Virtual Visiting team – the schedulers and officers – have shown true dedication to their roles and great compassion for patients and their loves ones despite such a busy schedule.”

Grace Hamilton (Assistant Director Nursing, Safety, Quality and Patient Experience) said:

“This service has proved invaluable at this time and allowed families to keep in touch with their loved ones when they were not able to visit.
“Receiving feedback through Care Opinion families and loved ones being reunited through video calls has been incredibly moving. There have been some sad calls but it has meant more than anything for relatives to see their family and friends at such a critical time.

“This initiative is a great example of how a digital solution can help to aid and support our patients and their families during these difficult times.”

Virtual Visits can normally be facilitated the same day or next day at the latest. Our Virtual Visiting Officers go to each patient on ward to set up the call for the patient and ensure that they are connected with their virtual visitor.