Bringing families together in the Western Isles amidst a worldwide pandemic was one of the NHS Western Isles’ objectives over recent weeks. 

With visiting opportunities suspended across island hospitals, NHS Western Isles has reunited families via ‘virtual visiting’ and has supplied wards with iPads to enable them access to their loved ones.

One family to benefit already from virtual visiting is Louise Sullivan’s, keeping her in touch with her elderly mother who is an inpatient in Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.

Louise lives locally, and since her mother, Ella Barbour, was admitted to the Western Isles hospital, herself and her father, Billy Barbour, had been visiting her mum on a daily basis. However following implementation of the lock down, this has not been possible.

Louise Sullivan is pictured on a Virtual Visit to her mum.

Louise said: “My mum has been an in-patient since February this year. Since my mum’s admission, either myself or my dad have visited my mum every day. Therefore, although the visiting restrictions were completely understandable they presented a personal challenge in relation to keeping connected.

"Having the opportunity to use the Virtual Visiting instead has meant the world to us as a family. My parents have been married for over 50 years and have hardly spent a day apart and I know my dad really appreciates the chance to see my mum most days via the virtual link.

"It’s been equally important for my mum to keep connected with her family to aid her recovery. For me, one of the most precious moments has been seeing my mum’s face ‘light up’ when she saw her grandsons on the video. At this challenging time we have been very grateful of this service and all the effort from staff to make this work for us and other families.”

The Virtual Visiting facility is continuing to grow across our hospitals and care homes have also introduced a similar facility, enabling vital face to face conversations to happen between patients and the people that matter most to them in their lives, which is inevitably going to be instrumental in their recovery.

For further information or to book a visit, please telephone 01851 708205.

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, commented:  “We are very pleased with how well this service has been received and the positive difference it has made to our patients. This is an extremely challenging time for inpatients who are in an unfamiliar environment, at a time of considerable anxiety, and are not able to see their friends and family. This is why we took the decision to develop this service for our patients who do not have their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop to use, to connect with others. Keeping in touch with those important to us is clearly beneficial in terms of patient wellbeing.”

Virtual Visiting is currently available at Western Isles Hospital seven days a week between 2pm and 4pm (though availability may be extended depending on need). The service will be introduced by next week to Uist and Barra.

A Virtual Visiting Coordinator is the contact for relatives, and will schedule the virtual visits, which will take place (internally) using NHS Western Isles ipads. The Coordinator will also ensure that infection prevention and control measures are strictly followed.

To arrange a virtual visit for a patient in Western Isles Hospital, the relative or friend simply phones the Virtual Visiting Coordinator on 01851 708205.  Initially these visits can take place between 2-4pm and the coordinator will agree a time with the patient and inform the visitor. (Numbers will be circulated for Uist and Barra as soon as possible).

The ward clerks will also support the service and assistance will be given to patients when required.

Once your visit is scheduled, you can log on to https://www.wihb.scot.nhs.uk/attend-anywhere