Like many NHS Trusts nationally, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has introduced temporary visiting restrictions to help protect patients, visitors and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these unprecedented times of restricted visiting, the local Trust is exploring different ways to make sure that family and friends can continue to communicate with their loved ones.

This now includes the launch of the ‘Stay in Touch’ scheme. Family and friends can send letters, messages and photographs to their loved ones while they are a patient in one of the Trust’s hospitals across County Durham and Darlington.

The Trust has set up a web form and dedicated email address where messages can be sent into the hospitals with a team of colleagues on hand to deliver the messages to patients Monday – Friday.

Noel Scanlon, Executive Director of Nursing for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are very aware that during this time when patients are unable to receive visitors at their bedside, any form of communication from their loved ones can lift the spirits and help their overall wellbeing.

“We understand how distressing it can be for both our patients and their loved ones when they cannot physically come in to visit, and the visiting suspension was not a decision we made lightly, however we acted to protect patient safety and that of our healthcare teams, in line with national Government advice at this time. Therefore, by setting up our ‘Stay in Touch’ scheme, we hope to help patients and families feel closer to one another while these restrictions are in place.

“We have a team of colleagues who will be delivering messages and correspondence to patients across our eight hospital sites on a Monday to Friday. We are also supporting patients to use electronic devices such as ipads on the ward areas to communicate with family and friends, where possible.”

Loved ones with relatives at any of the Trust’ hospitals can send their messages either through the Trust’s website or via email to

Alongside their letters, families are also asked to include the patient’s name, date of birth, hospital site where they are being treated and the ward or department, to help the team ensure their letters are delivered to the right place.

Letters received before 3pm Monday – Friday will be delivered on the same day. Any correspondence received after 3pm will roll into the next day’s deliveries and anything received on a Saturday or a Sunday will be delivered on the following Monday.

The scheme covers the following hospitals:

• Darlington Memorial Hospital

• University Hospital of North Durham

• Bishop Auckland Hospital

• Sedgefield Community Hospital

• Richardson Community Hospital

• Weardale Community Hospital

• Chester-le-Street Community Hospital

• Shotley Bridge Community Hospital