Thousands of tablets are being donated by Freemasons across England and Wales to help families stay in touch with their loved ones during the Coronavirus crisis.
Freemasons have provided the tablets to more than 50 hospitals, care homes and hospices across their regions at the start of a new nation-wide initiative.
During the current crisis, NHS hospitals have been forced to limit visits to patients in an attempt to control infections. Some of those suffering from the virus can be in intensive care for two to three weeks or more, with one-to-one visits only being allowed for dying patients.
This has led hospitals to try to find a way to help patients communicate with their families during this difficult time. Freemasons have risen to the challenge and gifted more than a thousand devices to help patients see and hear their loved ones and provide much-needed comfort.
The donations were coordinated through a new Covid-19 Response Group, which was formed by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) as an emergency structure in response to Covid-19. Its purpose is to work together to deliver life-changing initiatives – on a national scale – to those in need. Using the full capability of its network, the Freemasons have been able to draw together suppliers to source the tablets quickly and efficiently.
Dr David Staples, CEO of the United Grand Lodge of England, said: 'At this time of national crisis we will work together – within our local communities – to provide charity and support to those in need, as we have done for the last 300 years. To ensure what we do is both effective and targeted, we have – for the first time in our history – coordinated our activity on a national level though the newly formed Covid-19 Response Group.
'Our 200,000 members have united to make a significant difference to the lives of people in these very stressful circumstances.'
In London, hospitals including The Royal London, Queen Mary's and St Thomas' will receive approximately 115 tablets. In Kent, Surrey and Sussex, some 200 tablets will be donated, to help patients stay in contact with their families.
In addition, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Birmingham, Royal Gwent Hospital and additional NHS hospitals in Worcestershire will receive 180 tablets, between them, from the Freemasons.
Hospitals in Durham, Yorkshire and Northumberland will receive 170 tablets. While in Somerset, hospitals including the Royal United Hospital Bath and Weston General Hospital will be sent 40 tablets. Freemasons are also giving 25 units to care homes in Berkshire.
West Middlesex Hospital will receive eight tablets, and Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex, have been received seven tablets. Freemasons also donated 100 devices in south Wales.
In Devonshire, Cadogan Court Exeter will receive five tablets. In addition, they are donating 30 tablets to hospitals, care homes and hospices in Buckinghamshire. In Bristol, The Royal Infirmary will receive five tablets.
In north Wales they provided 50 tablets to help local hospitals. Nia Williams, support manager at NHS charity Awyr Las, said: 'Awyr Las is extremely grateful to the Freemasonry community for the amazing support they already give to our A&E and MIU departments across North Wales. This generous donation will help by using technology, which will enable patients to have face-to-face communications with their loved ones using tablet PCs.'
Hospitals in Norfolk will receive 12 tablets and in Suffolk they will receive 15. In east Lancashire, Freemasons are donating 10 smartphones and two tablets to help the NHS. While in Monmouthshire 11 tablets have been donated to hospitals.
All of the donated devices will continue to be used by the hospitals after the coronavirus crisis is over.