Solent NHS Trust use’s digital initiative to help combat loneliness in COVID-19
15 – 21 June 2020 is loneliness week in the UK, and a recent study by British Red Cross revealed that over nine million people in the country, across all adult ages; more than the population of London, are either always or often lonely. This situation has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with shielding advice and social distancing currently in place. As a result of this, visiting has been reduced at inpatient sites across Solent NHS Trust, in order to keep patients, staff and their loved one’s safe, which has made keeping connected more difficult than ever before.
However, patients across Solent are able to speak to loved ones ‘face to face’ via video calls, after national funding was received to purchase iPads and tablets. The Trust hopes that this will significantly increase levels of connection amongst patients, especially those who are elderly.
32 tablets were provided by NHS England and NHS Improvement for Solent’s inpatient services in Portsmouth and Southampton, including the Western Community Hospital, Royal South Hants and Hamble House. Since the first wave of tablets were trialled, demand has grown, and the Trust was able to purchase an extra 34 tablets for use in additional wards.
Stands, locking charging stations and protective, wipe down covers have also been acquired to ensure the safety of patients whilst using the tablets. Health care assistants on the wards have been given training by the Trust’s ICT and Digital Improvement teams and are assisting patients with video call programmes such as Zoom and Skype.
This comes at a time where people are separated from partners, families, friends and colleagues, unsure as to when face to face contact will resume. With over 2.2 million people aged 75 and over living alone in Great Britain, isolation will undoubtedly cause a lot of loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety, especially to those who are already vulnerable.
Katie Cahill, Staff Nurse working at the Adelaide ward said “The tablets have made a real difference to our patients time on the ward. I know many people feel really lonely at times, but being able to chat to loved ones and friends really cheers them up, which is great to see and they are always so grateful for that time.”
82-year-old, Margaret, an inpatient at the Adelaide ward agrees, “I love using the tablet, it really lifts my spirits on difficult days.”