NHS hospitals are using Amazon Wish Lists to appeal for donations of everyday items during the pandemic.
BBC News has identified more than 10 hospital trusts in England and Wales requesting products for staff and patients.
The basic items include hand creams, toothbrushes, razors, deodorants, thermometers and sanitary products.
But some medics have raised concern about whether it is right to make such appeals.
Amazon Wish Lists allow users to highlight products they would like others to buy them.
The account holders can specify the number of units desired and write accompanying comments about each item.
Some of the NHS accounts have specified:
- which items are for patients and which for staff
- which wards the products would go to
- what is their purpose – for example, one request for infrared thermometers specifies they are to look for signs of Covid-19 among parents and children at home and listings for toys and exercise books say they are to keep children occupied on the wards
Anyone can access these lists through shared links and purchased items are delivered to the account owner.
In addition to the NHS’s own lists, there are further cases of charities and other third-party organisations setting up Wish Lists on the health system’s behalf.
Among the other requested products are vitamins, coffee, computer wipes, talcum powder, energy bars and stationery.
“This Wish List has been created to help support staff and service-users during the coronavirus outbreak,” South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust says on its page.
“Help us to provide activities to our isolated patients and to those unable to receive visitors at this time.”
Other NHS trusts and boards talk of wanting to provide “care packages” for staff, who “may have to stay unexpectedly in hospital accommodation”.
“We have put together a small list of items that will make our staff feel valued and boost morale,” says a page set up by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.
The public appear to be responding.
A list set up by a charity to gift items to East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust staff says it has had to pause requests because of the high response rate.
“We have been truly humbled and overwhelmed by your generosity… if we need to reopen the list at a later date we will be in touch,” it posted on Facebook.
But several NHS staff have suggested it would be better if people donated to other causes.
“I’m a healthcare professional and I work for an NHS Ambulance Service,” one wrote in a tweet shared more than 600 times.
“Whilst I appreciate the kindness and generosity, I don’t need free pizza, free coffee or money-off vouchers et cetera.
“Please give to those who have lost their income.”
Another, who said they were a paramedic, wrote: “Financially, I’m sure I’ll be fine.
“What makes me uneasy are people who are out of work bringing donations to our station.
“It’s lovely but we don’t need it.”
And a third said: “As much as I greatly appreciate the gesture, please please please offer a free cup of coffee or pizza to the families who are struggling to feed their children, the homeless on the streets, the older generation or self-employed and to anyone else who is suffering financially from Covid-19 measures and are not covered by government grants or loans.”
BBC News asked NHS England and NHS Wales for comment.
NHS Swansea Bay Trust responded on the latter’s behalf.
“As [visitors] were now unable to visit for the foreseeable future, we could see a real patient dignity situation arising where patients would not have access to clean clothing and a growing lack of toiletries,” wrote spokeswoman Susan Bailey
“We then launched an appeal for toiletries, underwear and nightwear and it had such a positive response that we have now temporarily paused our appeal.
“We normally keep a small stock of items like this for patients who may be admitted as emergencies or who may not have family members able to visit, but nothing like the scale needed at present. Hence the appeal.”