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Hospitals in Somerset are putting in new ways for loved ones to stay in touch with patients during their stay in hospital. Due to coronavirus, hospitals across the county are currently closed for most visitors.

Yeovil Hospital is using wooden hearts to help maintain the bond between patients nearing the end of life and their families. Each heart can be customised with a message from a loved one to stay with the patient throughout their time in hospital.

The hospital is continuing to make visiting available to patients at the end of life, with appropriate support and guidance to ensure visitors and patients are kept safe.

Rob Lutyens, nurse consultant, palliative care and end of life, explains:

 “As someone comes to the end of their life, the staff at Yeovil Hospital are very used to providing support for the whole family. This is certainly more challenging at the moment and we are unable to do this in the usual ways as family members are not always able to visit. This does remain hugely important to us and good communication is essential. The small gesture of the wooden hearts can go a long way to helping our patients and their families feel more connected and they have been really appreciated.”

With visiting restrictions in place for the safety of patients and their families, the staff at Yeovil Hospital have introduced a variety of ways to get in touch.

Chief nurse Shelagh Meldrum added:

“Support from family and friends is really important for our patients’ recovery. As we have had to introduce very restrictive visiting guidelines, our staff have been working hard to implement a variety of options and new technology that we hope meet the needs of every family to ensure they can keep in touch.

“We are encouraging patients to use their own devices to use the free NHS wifi to make calls or video calls. We just ask patients to be respectful by not filming other patients or staff. We also have a limited number of android tablets and iPads on the wards to aid video calls when needed.

“It is also important to recognise that every family is different and we would encourage anyone struggling with contact at this time to call the ward and we can work with you to help find the best way for you to speak to your loved one or gain regular updates on progress. That may include a nominated family member/friend who can cascade updates or letters or emails that we can either give to the patient or read to them.”

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Musgrove Park Hospital and community and mental health hospitals around Somerset, is also offering several ways to get in contact.

Karen Holden, associate director of patient centred care at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We know that this is a very difficult time for our patients and their friends and relatives, particularly as we have had to restrict visiting to our hospitals and units.

“To help with this we have set up a patient messaging service where you can send us a text message or voicemail, which our patient experience team will pass on to your loved one through the clinical team looking after them – just call or text 07525 968409, Monday to Sunday, between 10am and 3pm (or leave a voicemail outside these times).

“We’d also encourage patients to bring in their own smartphone or tablet devices so they can video chat with their friends and relatives. A number of our wards are also equipped with a limited number of iPads to help if a patient does not have their own device.”

To send a letter to a patient using the postal addresses below,please include the patient name and ward to help staff direct your letter to the right place.

Musgrove Park Hospital: PALS, Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, TA1 5DA.

Yeovil Hospital: Yeovil Hospital, Higher Kingston, Yeovil, Somerset BA21 4AT.