Virtual visiting to be rolled out across all north-east hospitals

Jim Cameron using virtual visiting at Morningfield House

A virtual visiting programme for patients in NHS Grampian is being rolled out across all the health board's sites.

Guest wifi has been enabled at hospitals across the north-east to allow patients to use their own devices during the pandemic.

But the initiative also allows those who do not have their own device, are too ill or frail, or are not confident in using the technology, to connect using hospital-supplied iPads.

The programme was trialled in 25 wards during the pandemic and is now set to be delivered across all hospital sites over the next few months.

Elaine Pyper, senior charge nurse at Morningfield House, Woodend Hospital, which is one of the pilot wards, said: "While we know it will never be the same as a physical visit, virtual visiting is about putting in place the best alternative we can in the current situation and it’s already making a huge difference.

"As health professionals we know that patient recovery is about more than just their physical symptoms - emotional wellbeing and the right support from their loved ones plays a huge role.

"We see that with our patients every day which is why it was so important that we got the virtual visiting pilot off the ground quickly. There is also a vast amount of evidence that shows recovery time and treatment success is dramatically improved with the right support for patients."

Lyn Irvine, an Alzheimer Scotland nurse consultant based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said: "During the pilot we’ve seen the dramatic impact virtual visiting can have many times already – I remember one patient in particular that staff were worried about who had begun to deteriorate and clearly felt isolated.

"After arranging a virtual visit for her, the change was remarkable and immediate – her spirits lifted, her appetite for the fight to get better returned and I’m really pleased that she is now on the road to recovery."

Morningfield House patient Jim Cameron, 84, said: "It was great to be able to connect with my family and to see their faces again. It's cheered me up no end and made me feel less isolated. It’s also helped reassure my family that I’m doing OK.

"I’d never used Facetime before so it took a little bit of getting used to but the staff were really helpful. It’s made being in hospital just now that much easier so I hope it is introduced to all hospital wards."

Lyn added that the generosity of local people and businesses had been instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

She said: "We’ve benefited from a large £100,000 donation from the Klondyke Fishing Company to the NHS Grampian Endowment Fund and received iPads from other companies including DPD and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre. It’s also been really challenging delivering a project like this in a matter of weeks.

"There have been all sorts of things of challenges that we’ve needed to be work through including confidentiality, patient privacy and making sure the devices are equipped with the right security and encryption levels.

 "There will be other difficulties as we look to increase the number of wards involved but, all in all, when you hear the positive feedback from patients and their families about the difference it is making, there is no doubt it is something we need to press ahead with.

 "It will take time to roll out virtual visiting to all areas – most likely a few months but we are determined to do it as quickly as we can. We are also really grateful to people for their patience and understanding as we work to bring more wards online."

Sheena Lonchay, manager for the NHS Grampian Endowment Fund, said: "Thanks to Klondyke Fishing Company, the concept of virtual visiting became a reality in a matter of weeks.

"This has made an enormous difference to families separated by Covid-19 who are now able to see each other when they can’t be together."

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