Letters for Loved Ones: helping patients and families stay connected through COVID
As COVID-19 continues to keep loved ones apart, teams at Epsom and St Helier hospitals are helping inpatients stay in touch with friends and family with an initiative known as Letters for Loved Ones.
If you would like to reach out to a loved one being cared for on a ward at Epsom or St Helier hospital, simply send your message or letter (with photos if you would like to) to the dedicated Letters for Loved Ones email address. Our Patient Experience Team will print and laminate your messages (so that it can be cleaned and sanitised), and ensure that it is safely delivered to the patient’s bedside and read out when required.
Sophie Bevan is Head of Patient Experience and Partnership, but as a senior nurse, has recently been redeployed to the Intensive Care Unit to assist during the pandemic. She reflects on the service: “This is a lifeline for those separated from their families, and provides a connection to their family and friends outside. It reassures patients that there are so many people who love and care for them, which brings them hope and comfort in what is a very challenging and distressing time. I’ve seen first-hand how impactful Letters for Loved Ones can be, and I am so proud of everyone who helps to facilitate the service and provide such a positive impact on patients and their families and carers.”
John Needham, Patient Experience Officer, explains how it works: “The service enables relatives and friends who can’t visit their loved ones in hospital to email messages, photographs, and even family videos, to them. Messages and photographs are then printed out, laminated, and delivered directly to the bedside of the inpatient as soon as possible.
“In January 2021 we received 657 messages to relay to loved ones – the highest monthly figure yet. We’re proud of the growth of our service, and want to encourage even more people to use it moving forwards. The service continues to receive a lot of great feedback, and it’s a wonderful feeling being able to facilitate the love and care a family wants to show to their loved one whilst in hospital. Hearing how much it helps our patients and their families is just amazing.”
Margaret Woods has direct experience with the service, having used Letters for Loved Ones to communicate with her husband in hospital. Margaret said: "This service has provided a personal lifeline to me in my darkest moments. Knowing that John and the Letters for Loved Ones team were there at the end of an email providing this outstanding service was truly a lifeline for myself and my immediate family – I will forever be in their debt for helping me keep in touch with my beloved husband."
Margaret’s sister, Liz, has also been using the service to send photographs and messages to her brother in law. She said: “Our family just cannot thank you enough for having this service, and it’s a service that should continue forever. We know that the kindness of Letters for Loved Ones has helped my brother in law on the road to recovery, and all I can say is a great big thank you.”
Chief Executive Officer of Epsom and St Helier, Daniel Elkeles, says “Our staff have worked tirelessly throughout COVID-19 to provide outstanding care to our patients, every day. Our staff often go above and beyond, reading the messages aloud to those patients who are unable to read them themselves. As of the beginning of February the Letters for Loved Ones service has received and delivered 1,524 messages from 853 friends and family members, which is just amazing.
“The Letters for Loved Ones initiative is demonstrative of the nature of our workforce – challenges are overcome, changes adapted to, and compassionate care is always at the forefront of what we do.”
If someone you know is an inpatient at one of our hospitals and you’d like to send them a message via Letters for Loved Ones, please contact John Needham on firstname.lastname@example.org.