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Phone and tablet donations help patients speak to families

Highly restrictive visiting policies – including visitor bans – have been imposed by health boards and local authorities because of coronavirus.

Sara Platt started a Facebook group which facilitates the donation of items to NHS staff, wards and patients.

Ms Platt said she had received emergency requests for the devices.

The NHS Kindness Wishlist Facebook group has gained more than 16,000 members in less than two weeks.

It has helped raise almost £30,000 worth of items for more than 70 wards and health facilities across Wales, including dozens of tablets and mobile phones.

“It’s just grown and grown and now we help all hospitals in Wales,” said Ms Platt, from Llanharan, in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

The group has become a focal point for donations of hundreds of Easter eggs, allowing patients young and old to celebrate the holiday.

“It started with tea, coffee, biscuits, sweets, which went on to tablets, phones, toothpaste, hand sanitiser and tooth brushes,” Ms Platt explained.

Behind the seemingly unremarkable requests for electronic devices such as tablets and phones lies the grim reality of the effects of the lockdown on those who are ill – both with and without coronavirus – and their families.

“People are passing away without seeing family because visitors aren’t allowed on to the wards,” Ms Platt explained.

“If they can get a tablet or a mobile phone, it allows people to speak to their family before they die.

“We had an emergency request the other day. Two nurses contacted me and they were really emotional because their patients couldn’t see their family before they die.

“We put a post up and five tablets and five phones were sent the next day.

“Staff aren’t used to it but they have to deal with that too.”

But for Ms Platt, the kindness she sees on a daily basis helps her cope with the difficult stories she hears from the wards.

“I love seeing photos. When I see photos of staff smiling, I love it.”

Ms Platt said she had the inspiration to start the Facebook page after her one-year-old son Kohan was rushed to hospital with suspected coronavirus.

He was put on a Covid-19 isolation ward at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital near Llantrisant but staff soon established he was not infected.

When she realised how quickly the Facebook group was growing, Ms Platt “begged” her sister Hayley to help her out.

Now the siblings run the operation together – taking requests for certain items from NHS ward managers, creating “wish lists” on Amazon, and then promoting it on the page.

The response from NHS staff has been overwhelming, Ms Platt said.

In a video message, Elin James and Rhian William, respiratory nurse specialists at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, thanked Ms Platt and Ms Francis for their help.

“We were absolutely amazed and overwhelmed that these two ladies had set up this group, giving up their time to help us and the NHS through tough times,” said Ms James.

Ms Williams said staff had been “blown away” by people’s kindness, and it had “boosted morale”.