Linking Loved Ones during COVID-19

With patient visiting no longer permitted due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve launched Linking Loved Ones – three new ways for patients and their loved ones to stay in touch.

Patients will soon be feeling less-lonely thanks to a dedicated hotline, Virtual Visiting and Letters of Love.


The hotline has been created so family members calling wards for updates are swiftly connected to the right members of staff or to arrange a time for a return call and prevents family members having to call the individual ward where staff may be busy looking after patients.

A password system will be in place to maintain patient confidentiality.

The Linking Loved Ones hotline is available via the Trust’s main telephone number: 01642 617617.


Virtual visiting

Recognising that not all patients and their loved ones are familiar with video packages such as FaceTime or Skype, Virtual Visiting allows for patients and their families to be able to see each other face-to-face by using iPads.

Some iPads have been kindly donated by local businesses, charities and members of the public.

Family members will only be connected to the patient on the ward after passing a series of security checks. The patient is made aware of whom is contacting them before the virtual visit commences.

Ward staff will help the patient with using the iPad if needed.

Family members less familiar with technology will be assisted at both University Hospital of North Tees and University Hospital of Hartlepool at special Hubs where they can be supported to use the hospital’s computer equipment to see their relative on the ward. The Hubs are repurposed clinic rooms which allow for privacy and are thoroughly disinfected after each use.

To arrange a Virtual Visit, family members are asked to email with the patient’s name and date of birth. The Linking Loved Ones team will then make the necessary arrangements.

Letters of LoveDavid Piggott

Letters of Love is an opportunity for family members to email letters, photographs or poems to a dedicated hospital email address so they can reach their loved quickly and easily.

Attachments will be printed off, without being read by any member of staff, and delivered to the patient. If the patient has difficulty reading or is too ill, a selected member of staff will ask permission to read the letter or other attachment to the patient.

Ward staff will use iPads to show the patient any video files that are sent to them.

The Linking Loved Ones email address is:

Family members are asked to include the patient’s name and date of birth on any email.

David Piggott, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s Quality Improvement Lead and leader of the Linking Loved Ones team, said: “Family and friends’ experiences with our patients really matters and never so much more than during these challenging times.

“We understand separation between patients and their families causes anxiety and we needed to put something in place to help ease this as much as possible.

“It took us just seven days to get the technology up and running, for staff to manage the hotline, to support the virtual visits and to volunteer to read the letters of love.

“These services are brand new and will evolve over time but our aim is to provide comfort to relatives and our patients.”

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