Hospital Project Brings Comfort To Suffolk Families

SUFFOLK Family Carers is ensuring hospital stays can be made significantly more bearable for both patients and loved ones, thanks to a new initiative.

The charity has collaborated with East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust to roll out their ‘At My Bedside’ scheme. Initially targeted across Ipswich and East Suffolk, it is aimed at patients and their friends and family who need support to remain ‘connected’ during their hospital stay.

At a time when people around the county are more concerned than ever about those they care about being admitted to hospital, the project provides a compassionate connection between those who find themselves being treated, and those who are at home maintaining a distance from the hospital wards.

As soon as a patient is taken into hospital, staff are able to identify what is in place, for the person to be in touch with those people who are most important to them.

Volunteers managed by Suffolk Family Carers will then speak to family members about any specific support needs they may have at this unsettling time.

Organisations such as Suffolk Libraries are among those supporting this project, by encouraging their staff to sign up as volunteers, bringing their vital knowledge of the needs of the Suffolk community to the project.

The initial idea was the brainchild of Ipswich Hospital’s Associate Director of Nursing Rebecca Pulford, who felt it important to minimise the discomfort of ‘distanced’ patient support during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

She said: “More than ever, hospital staff are very conscious how unsettling it can be to be in hospital at the moment, or to have a loved one admitted.

“Not to be able to visit because of the distancing rules, and to have increased concerns because of the pandemic, means a lot of anxiety for all concerned.

“I’m so pleased that we’re able to work with Suffolk Family Carers to provide some non-clinical support that goes some way toward limiting the discomfort and the fear.”

The scheme has been piloted at Ipswich Hospital and its early success has led to commencement of the scheme in community hospitals in the east of Suffolk and conversations to deliver the scheme further across Suffolk in the coming weeks.

East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is already part of a national project called ‘Letters to Loved Ones’. This is a national initiative which allows patients and their family members or friends send messages, letters and cards. It will continue to run in addition to the new scheme.

Kirsten Alderson, CEO of Suffolk Family Carers, said: “Whenever a person goes into hospital for an admission, it can have an impact on family life and on the way in which a household is able to operate.

“The impact is even greater right now, because it’s simply not possible for family and close friends to be at the bedside, which removes crucial communication and a comforting sense of familiarity.

“In some cases, the person admitted might also have been the key ‘caregiver’, so their absence from the normal routine is felt even more intensely, and there’s a need to ensure that both the patient and others in their life are fully supported in every way.”

She added: “We’re really pleased to be working with Ipswich Hospital and our other partners on this initiative and the feedback already has been hugely rewarding.

“We’ll be able to lend mobile devices, support people to use technology or to send letters, videos and photographs to help families and friends to connect with patients in hospital, ensure that the housebound receive vital assistance with obtaining food and medication, discuss what the needs might be on discharge – and generally ensure that no-one is feeling lonely or unsupported in the entire process.

“Please get in contact if this service would benefit you.”

If you are a family member, carer or other close support for someone in hospital at the moment, and you need some help to connect with them or support in your own right, please contact Suffolk Family Carers.

They, and their partner volunteers, can discuss with you issues such as welfare, companionship, technology requirements, practical and emotional support and access to further resources.

Anyone interested in At My Bedside, can contact the charity’s team on or 01473 835477.

Suffolk Family Carers typically delivers some 10,000 interventions in support of families every year.

Based in Claydon, the charity has over 14,000 registered family carers and delivers numerous schemes, groups and support activities throughout the county.