Why our groups buy toiletry packs

Sharon Elswood has seen the League of Friends of Warwick Hospital go through many changes since she joined the Friends committee in 2005, but one thing that has remained consistent is the group’s ongoing donations of courtesy packs to the hospital. Courtesy packs contain toiletries and other supplies for patients. Sharon recently ordered a supply of 1000 courtesy packs for the Friends to distribute to different wards as they request them and that supply will likely only last about 9 months. The packs are in huge demand, with Sharon’s last purchase of 2000 packs lasting only about a year.

“We’ve got various departments, many wards and people come into the hospital without anything, and the courtesy packs literally tide them over until friends or relatives can bring items in, so they’re very, very useful.”

She said the packages include obvious supplies like toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant wipes as well as items you may not immediately think of but are certainly appreciated, like earplugs. Along with the supplies, is a note from the League of Friends explaining that the item is a gift and the group wishes the patient a speedy recovery. Sharon said sometimes patients will respond by offering a donation to the League of Friends that can be used to pass the same resources on to future patients.

“Once many years ago I had 1000 pounds donated with one of the little insert slips and that enabled us to buy more courtesy packs with the donation to the League of Friends. It was 1000 pounds and I just thought ‘Oh my God!’ Somebody was so touched by the courtesy packs that they donated 1000 pounds,” Sharon said.

When the hospital runs out of courtesy packs, Sharon will use their funding and their status as a member group with Attend to request that a certain number of courtesy packs and supplies be ordered and sent to the hospital. When they arrive, she holds onto them and is responsible for distributing them as needed. Because this resource has been available for so many years, staff on the wards know that Sharon holds this resource and are able to request they be distributed for the patients.

While the courtesy packs have been a fixture of the League of Friends’ support services for many years they are changing to meet the hospital’s needs and the Friends also contribute other resources to Warwick Hospital as well. Sharon said these days most of the donations are to buy equipment that can be vital to support the hospital. She said they’ve purchased ECG machines, bladder scanners, specialised furniture and recently 12 iPads. These devices allow the tissue viability team, which is only a small group of staff, to communicate with nurses. Nurses can send photos of patients for the team to assess, which allows them to cover more ground than they could if they had to physically travel to each room in the hospital to do an initial assessment of the patient.

“With Friends we provide that much needed support, I think we will always remain,” Sharon said.

Although the committee has shrunk in size over the years, Sharon said in many ways this is a benefit because it allows the group to make much quicker decisions between its roughly 12 members and answer requests from the hospital in a timely way.

Sharon said another recent donation was of a curtain on wheels that can be moved and placed around a patient’s bed. The curtain features a picturesque scene that gives patients who may be at the end of their lives, or patients who are very sick and bedbound, the opportunity to look at something more interesting and beautiful than the hospital room.

Sharon said the Friends consider “everything that can impact our patient's health and well-being and how we can benefit them with the charitable funds that we are given to then ensure that they are used properly to support the patients.”