Video service helps families stay in touch in the face of COVID-19

Loved ones of patients are normally warmly welcomed into NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals but because of COVID-19, visiting has been restricted to keep everyone safe.

A video message service is now more important than ever to help families stay in touch with patients in hospital and has been expanded with support of the West of Scotland Innovation Hub.  

The vCreate secure video service was first developed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Hospital for Children at the Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow. During the coronavirus pandemic It has now been expanded for use in adult ICUs across NHSGGC and more widely in Scotland, to help keep families connected to their loved ones.

The service allows nurses and doctors to record video messages which are uploaded to a secure platform for family members to view.

This has made all the difference for Roz and Neil McAllister as their daughter Lucy continues to be cared for at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Hospital for Children. Lucy was born premature in January.

Roz said: “Our daughter Lucy has been in hospital since she was born in January. The videos have been so important to our family, especially with the now restricted visiting. Waking up to a video of Lucy in the morning is such a reassurance. The team so thoughtful and creative – adding music and making us smile.

“The tremendous staff have made it possible for our other daughter Millie to be able to see her baby sister as well as all of the grandparents.”

Dr Neil Patel, Consultant Neonatologist at Royal Hospital for Children, was instrumental in getting the video messaging service up and running in 2017 and has seen its expanded use. The Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity funded the launch of this service at NICU RHC, and continues to fund its ongoing costs and development across multiple departments at RHC, PRM and the RAH.

vCreate is now being used in neonatal units at the Royal Hospital for Children Glasgow, Princess Royal Maternity Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital Paisley, Paediatric Intensive Care at Royal Hospital for Children Glasgow and adult Intensive Care Units at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

Dr Neil Patel, Consultant Neonatologist at Royal Hospital for Children, said: “Families have told us that receiving videos of their loved-one reassures them and makes them feel less anxious. It also helps to involve them in their baby’s care and strengthen their relationship with the team in the hospital.

“For us, it makes such a difference to be able to help keep families connected and capture all of those special moments they might otherwise miss. The neonatal team have created thousands of videos. They have become a normal part of our care, but each is personalised for the family who receive them.

“It’s now terrific to see the service extended to adult intensive care units all over Scotland during the current pandemic, supported by the Scottish Government. Many hospitals in England, Ireland and overseas are also using the service too. During COVID-19 these are more important than ever to connect families at the hardest of times.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman said:

“These are deeply unsettling and anxious times for everyone, but for families whose loved ones are in hospital it can be especially worrying.

“I am very pleased to see the expansion of the Vcreate system into intensive care units (ICU) across Scotland. It enables families and friends to stay connected, informed and in touch.

“This use of digital technology is another example of our health service adapting quickly and intelligently to the challenges of dealing with this virus, and also demonstrates the deep and abiding concern for patient care - in all its forms - within our NHS.”

William Edwards, Director of e-Health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Across our hospitals, our staff embed technology as part of everyday patient care. COVID-19 has emphasised how important this is and we’re proud to connect our patients with their loved ones in this difficult time. VCreate is a great example of how we are making our patient care #DigitalasUsual.”

Catriona MacNeil, Consultant Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, is leading on the expansion of the tool in adult Intensive Care Units across NHSGGC.

She said: “The way we live and work has changed in ways that have been very difficult, especially for those families directly affected by COVID-19. Separation from loved ones is always difficult and this is magnified when a patient is admitted to critical care. VCreate has been introduced to adult critical care to help connect our teams with loved ones at home. We have always prided ourselves in delivering excellent patient care and even at times of challenge we continue to find solutions to help our patients and their families.”