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Bristol hospital’s Message to My Loved One service ‘a lifeline’ for families

Last updated: 01/03/2021

Brenda RobertsA service which allows friends and relatives of those in hospital to keep connected through hand-delivered letters has been described as ‘a lifeline’ by one family, whose loved one was treated for COVID-19 at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Brenda Roberts from Hengrove was in hospital four weeks during December 2020 and January 2021, during which time she was able to receive messages from family members from as far afield as Scotland thanks to the hospital’s Message to My Loved One service.

The Message to My Loved One service allows people to send in messages via email or a dedicated phone line, which are then printed and delivered to patients. It is run by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust’s (UHBW) patient experience and voluntary services team.

While patients are supported to make use of telephone or video calls to keep connected with their family and friends, Message to My Loved One offers them the opportunity to try a different method of communication, which may be more easily accessible to some and can act as a keepsake and aide memoire for patients.

Brenda’s daughter, Amanda Walton, was able to make use of the service to supplement the phone and video calls she and her sister were making. She was also able to pass on the details of how to use the service to other members of the family, so Brenda could receive updates and well wishes while recovering on the ward.

Amanda said: “I know that members of our family really appreciated being able to send their good wishes without having to worry about buying and posting cards, particularly as mum was in hospital over Christmas.

“It was also lovely to get an email back saying their message had been delivered, and all of the messages were sent home with mum when she was discharged so we could all read them.

“The staff put the messages up at the end of her bed so mum could easily see them and know that everyone was thinking about her.

“I know that mum, and no doubt many others in her situation, found talking on the phone very tiring, so having this service is so important for patients.

“It is really wonderful and gives great comfort to both patients and families, especially at this difficult time.”

One of Amanda’s relatives who also made use of the service was her sister-in-law, Gail Fairbairn. Gail lives in Scotland, so being able to easily send messages to Brenda meant a lot to her.

Gail said: “I felt it was literally a lifeline to have that instant connection.

“Once she was out of critical care and recovering on a ward, Brenda was even able to read part of my letter to her daughter Amanda over the phone, which helped engage conversation and stimulate her overall wellbeing.

“Just knowing people are thinking of you and giving words of encouragement, I think makes a world of difference.

“I can’t thank the volunteers enough for this invaluable service and I hope it goes from strength to strength.”

If you have a loved one in hospital and would like to use the Message To My Loved One service, please email messagetomylovedone@uhbw.nhs.uk or call 0117 342 1561.

Messages received by 11am each day, Monday – Friday, will be delivered that day to inpatients in our hospitals.

The Trust is also offering the chance for people to drop off small gifts, letters or essential personal items from 10.30am – 12.30pm, Monday – Friday, which members of the team can pass on. If you would like to make use of this service, please following this guidance:

  • Small items only, as they will need to be easily delivered by our postal team
  • No food, drink, flowers or valuables
  • Items can be dropped off at the Patient Possessions Drop-Off point in the main entrance of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and to the main reception desks at Weston General Hospital and South Bristol Community Hospital.

The service was introduced at the Trust last year, in light of the visiting restrictions which have been in place during the coronavirus pandemic.