We strive to support our patients and their loved ones in the best ways that we can at our Trust and we have been working hard on reviewing our guidance on visiting after a recent change by the NHS.

With any changes we make we have to balance the importance of allowing visiting for our patients against a number of factors, including the number of COVID-19 cases in our hospitals. Our aim is to keep you safe whilst recognising the importance of patients being able to see their loved ones during their hospital stay.

Please keep an eye out over the coming days for our plans to re-introduce visiting at both our hospitals. Just a reminder though that, for now,all existing visiting rules will remain and we will continue to encourage those we are caring for to make full use of the other options available to keep in touch.

These options include support from our Chaplaincy Team; access for patients to ward iPads/mobile phones if they do not have a mobile phone; and loved ones will be encouraged to send a message to those in hospital by following the link on our website here.

All those visiting hospital settings are still being asked to wear face coverings and abide by social distancing guidance unless they are exempt. We care for the most vulnerable in our communities and ask you all to still follow this guidance. Please be assured we are doing all we can to keep patients, visitors and our communities safe.

Services at our hospitals remain under intense pressure and I would like to personally thank my colleagues at both hospitals who have gone above and beyond once more over recent weeks.

Some of my colleagues have cancelled leave to come in to care for our patients and they have also stepped in to help each other out in other departments. Thank you also to clinical colleagues from across the health system who also joined us to support our Emergency Department and Acute Medical Unit teams.

It was great to hear a heart-warming story how people from far and wide rallied to help out when our staff sent out a Facebook appeal for knitted teddies for our younger patients.

The post went out in October and since then Children’s Outpatients Department has had an incredible response to their request and teddies have arrived from as far away as Hong Kong!

Kent-based Border Knit and Natter Group also saw the appeal, got out their needles and got knitting – last week we received a large delivery of teddies to put a smile on the faces of our younger patients.

The idea is that the teddy bears become a distraction and source of comfort for children as they attend appointments. The teddy also gets asked if they are okay, and if they don’t mind being measured – so the child and teddy go through it together from start to finish.

Well done to all those who have helped cheer up our younger patients.