Colleagues on a Community unit run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) are delighted that iPads are helping patients and families affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Julie Anderson, Ward Manager of the Langdale Unit at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal and her team members, have all found that enabling patients and families to connect via an iPad has been hugely positive.
Julie said: “One thing that has been brilliant during the COVID-19 situation has been using an iPad to reassure family members when they haven’t been able to see their loved one due to hospital visiting restrictions.
“We can connect our iPad with families so they can see that their relative is getting better. They can see their loved one sitting up in a chair and eating and drinking. Seeing this on the iPad stops families worrying unnecessarily.
“Patients with dementia, for example, can quickly become quite withdrawn and may not have seen their relatives for weeks due to the restrictions. The family and patient can all log in at the same time, see each other and have a chat.
“One patient, who was quite deaf, was able to see his family talking to him and it was a very emotional process. We were able to translate what they were saying to him and he was so very grateful. He said it was the best thing that had happened to him for a long time.”
The team is also using iPads so that families, patients and staff can discuss the discharge process and care planning.
Julie said she hopes that it will be possible to keep using iPads in various ways in the future.
She said: “I think using iPads is something we should carry on doing indefinitely. In South Cumbria there is quite a large elderly population and many people’s families have moved away or people have retired here. The iPad enables everyone to connect with each other which is brilliant.”
Julie lives with her husband Paul in Brookhouse near Lancaster and has a daughter Rebecca, works at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) in the research department.
On the Langdale Unit, Julie leads a team of 77 people including, support workers, ward clerks, discharge team members and occupational therapists. The unit has 28 beds and the team cares for patients from the age of 18 years and upwards.
Patients who are ready to leave acute wards at hospitals such as Furness General Hospital, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, the Royal Preston Hospital and the Royal Blackburn Hospital and need further care or rehabilitation before being able to go home, can be admitted to the unit. The unit also provides discharge planning and palliative care.
Julie said: “It is a great place to work and we have a great team. The hospital has a lovely community feel and everyone is friendly and helpful.
“We have a good mixture of people in the team from the age of 19 to 68 years. Our colleagues are from many different backgrounds and we complement each other perfectly. Everyone works well together.”
Prior to 2020, there were two Langdale wards which subsequently merged into one unit.
Julie says the COVID-19 crisis has brought everyone even closer together: “There are great examples of team work and staff problem solving to ensure we provide safe care. The current situation has really gelled the team.”
As with every team across the Trust, colleagues on the Langdale Unit have quickly adapted and devised new processes to cope with the challenges of COVID-19. Processes for safely discharging patients have been developed and a proactive approach is taken at all times.
Julie said: “We are caring for people recovering from COVID-19 and people who have been brought in with a new diagnosis.
“We wear full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which has its own challenges. It’s hard for some patients because they can’t see if we are smiling or any of our other facial expressions.”
Patients and staff on the Langdale Unit had fun making bunting for VE Day on Friday 8 May.
A number of patients have been discharged during the COVID-19 situation and they have been delighted to be going home.
Julie said: “Our older patients are quite a resilient group and have been exceeding what anyone thought possible.
“Everyone on the team has supported each other. They have been absolutely brilliant; they are very flexible and will do anything to support the service. It’s a happy team and we still laugh and banter. We keep patients’ spirits up as much as possible.
“We just take it one day at a time.”
Sarah Price, Consultant in Palliative Care Medicine, said: “We know how difficult it can be for patients and their loved ones not to be able to see each other, and we know that when people are really unwell and may be nearing the end of their lives, any limitations to visiting can be really hard.
“We hope that access to this technology will help with this in a small way and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who formed part of the team that made this happen. We know the iPads have made a huge difference to the people that have used them so far.”
Fifteen iPads will be used on wards at Furness General Hospital (FGH), Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) and Westmorland General Hospital to help patients to communicate with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jitsi a video conferencing app has been installed on the devices which will allow patients to do a video conferencing call with their loved ones where they will be able to see each other. Staff and patients will follow infection prevention guidance when using the iPads.
Staff will also use the iPads to give families the opportunity to see and speak to patients who are very unwell and may be nearing the end of their lives.
On top of the 15 iPads funded by the Trust, Simpson Millar Solicitors has also donated several iPads to FGH and the RLI. The national award-winning law firm is raising money through its #staytogether campaign to buy the devices for hospitals across the country.
You can donate to the #staytogether campaign at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/staytogether.