Over 5,000 cards were sent to patients in Derriford Hospital from family and friends through the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust’s ‘Send your loved one a message’ scheme, from 8 April 2020 to 12 April 2021.
Designed, produced and often hand-delivered by the Communications team, the cards provided friends and family with a means to contact patients and brighten their day, while being unable to visit in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Messages and photos could be submitted via an online system on the UHP website, which the Communications team turned into cards and tracked down each and every patient to ensure they were received.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team also helped to deliver cards in the early days of the scheme. Ben Gadd, Patient Experience and Engagement Manager, explains: “At the start of the pandemic, it was heart breaking to get so many calls from families who were desperate to communicate with their loved ones, and wanted to let them know that they were missed, loved and thought of.
“I really appreciate how the Communications team picked up that this was a need and a hugely emotional issue for both patients and their loved ones, and that they devised, set up and rolled out this scheme at such speed. Reading some of the messages we then received bought a tear to my eye.”
Naomi Lang, Communications Officer, adds: “Some of the messages and photos we received were quite moving, so it was a real honour to make sure they were received in a handmade card. It seems a small thing, but for patients to receive that little envelope of love from family and friends when they weren’t allowed visitors hopefully made people smile and feel cared for. More and more I’m learning that the little things are the big things.”
Of the 5,500 messages received that were turned into cards, some contained messages of thanks and appreciation for the scheme. These included:
“To the person reading this message, THANK YOU so very much for taking the time out of your busy day to do this, it means such a lot, thank you.”
“I have no idea what these cards look like … it’s an online thingy that the staff have been so kind to keep up with, because no one can visit anyone right now.”
“This message service is a great idea seeing as we can’t be by your side.”
“The great hospital system now lets me send you a card. Thanks to the person getting this to you.”
“How cool is this, you get a card?!”
The scheme ended when limited visiting was reintroduced at the hospital, but for the year it was in place, it made a difference to at least 5,000 patients and their family and friends.