Published: 07/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5926 Page 26 27

Our patient-public involvement forum has identified a problem when older people who are spouses/partners are admitted to different hospitals - perhaps one for acute care and the other for respite.

There seems to be no direct way for them to communicate, especially if one is suffering from infection (common enough in the NHS today, alas). Mobile phones are not encouraged, and bringing a phone to the bedside is not easy in a busy ward. The instance brought to our attention resulted in a couple having no contact for a fortnight - heartbreaking after 50 years together, when each was worried about the other.

Have any managers out there encountered this problem? More importantly, are there any ideas on how we can alleviate such problems in the future? Perhaps modern office technology (videoconferencing? ) could be used.

This surely is an issue of dignity and common humanity and something that we would not want to happen to our parents and grandparents. Perhaps I should add that in these days of trusts, czars and commissions, there is no obvious route to reporting this problem and finding a solution.

Sue Hood PPI outreach worker Essex