Days spent in a hospital bed can drag on a bit, and aside from meals, bathroom visits and the Doctor making their rounds, there really is little to help pass the time.
But at Milton Keynes University Hospital, one daily highlight was the ward visit by the trolley service.
It was a chance to grab a little sweet treat to accompany that welcome cup of tea; or to take a daily newspaper and find out what was going on in the world.
“So many patients and staff would wait for the trolley every day,” said Clare Logan, volunteer recruiter and fundraiser with MK Friends of MK Hospital and Community, “It was really popular until the restrictions had to be brought in.”
New safety measures implemented because of the pandemic meant there was no choice but for the trolley to be temporarily retired and parked up. And with visiting hours reduced or cut altogether, patients could no longer ask their nearest and dearest to collect their vital items – or that chocolate bar – from the shop for them either.
“The shop in the hospital is still open, but only to NHS staff for the moment,” Clare explained, “We soon noticed many members of staff were coming in to buy essential items for their patients, which was taking up precious time that they would rather be spending on the wards.”
Keen to reinstate an alternative service to cater for the patients and help to swell the charity coffers, chairperson and trustee Clare Hill came up with a plan – an online ordering service.
Family and friends can click and order items online, and once a day a member of the team drops off the ‘shopping’ in a Covid safe way. Patients can also place their own orders.
The service launched in December and the response has been brilliant: “We have had people ordering for loved ones from Australia, the United States, France and even China!” Clare said, “It is proving to be a big success.”
It’s not only confectionery and snacks offered by the online store either. The scheme – believed to be the first of its type in the country – offers a wide range of toiletries and stationery products.
You can even buy reading glasses, a USB Cable or ear plugs (because we know that wards can be a bit hectic on occasion), or a pack of pants or sleepwear – because you can’t afford to do without those in hospital!
This service is more than just a nice little quirk: “Some people arrive here in a hurry, and they haven’t got all their toiletries. Being able to have items that are a necessity delivered directly to the ward really makes a difference.”
And at a time when visiting loved ones is more difficult because of the restrictions, it is a connection; for elderly relatives who might not like to use mobile phones or technology, a daily delivery is a reminder that loved ones are thinking of them.
“When Dad was in hospital and I was not able to visit, it made me feel very distant from him,” said one store user, “He enjoyed reading his daily newspaper, and being able to order his favourite items from the shop and have them delivered made me feel closer to him. This simple thing really did mean so much to me and the family.”
The MK Friends of MK Hospital and Community isn’t a new initiative. It has been raising money and funding equipment for the past 40 years and has contributed a huge amount to the hospital – scanners, beds and furnishings are among the many items. Profits from the online store will go straight into the pot to help purchase new items.
“We have had many orders from people who want to give to the staff to show their support, and people make random donations too – we had someone purchase a puzzle magazine, a drink and some biscuits recently and just asked that we pass it to a patient who ‘needs cheering up.’
“Not everyone in hospital has any relatives or friends to rely on, and little acts of kindness like that are so simple, but make such a difference.”