NHS Western Isles is launching a ‘Virtual Visiting’ service for hospital inpatients.

The service, which officially launches tomorrow (Wednesday 8 April), is available seven days a week between 2pm and 4pm (though availability may be extended depending on need).

The service will be initially available to patients in Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, but it is hoped it could be effectively rolled out to all Western Isles hospital sites over the next fortnight.

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, explained: “We recognise how difficult this time is for everyone. It is an even more 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.”

A Virtual Visiting Coordinator will be 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, 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.

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 here.

You then tell the receptionist what ward you are visiting and they will transfer you to the virtual waiting area and a member of the ward staff will accept the call and take an ipad to the patient. Visits will be for 10 minutes initially.

Visitors do not need any special software or apps on their own device as Virtual Visiting uses the Attend Anywhere VC platform. All that a visitor requires is access to the Chrome browser (or safari), access to the internet or 4G, and a webcam.

NHS Western Isles Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Project Manager, Iain Trayner, explained: “Although a majority of patients do have a device suitable for video calls, we knew that a significant number do not.

"We wanted to make sure that everyone can stay in touch with friends and relatives at this very difficult time, so we looked for ways of making it as accessible and easy as possible.

"We owe a huge thanks to Diane Morrison and her incredible Patient Services team, for helping us to develop and deliver this service.”​