Not all gifts are welcome everywhere.
If has long been the tradition, that if a relative or friend gets poorly and has to stay in hospital you might send a fab bunch of flowers or one of those superb fruit baskets to cheer them up. After all, most hospital wards could do with a splash of colour and fruit is meant to be a lovely, but healthy, treat! But you might be surprised to learn that many hospitals are banning such gifts. The risk of spreading germs, especially on wards where patients are particularly vulnerable to infection, aggravating allergies or creating more work for nurses and hospital staff are among the reasons given.
I received beautiful bouquets of flowers when I was sick in hospital only for the nurse to wave them from a distance and take them off the ward so these well-meaning gifts never reached me. It felt like such a waste and I was left feeling anxious that I couldn't thank my friends for their heartfelt gifts. This was the inspiration behind my business Not Another Bunch Of Flowers which offers thoughtful and more practical alternatives to flowers.
Flowers and baskets of fruit can also take up precious space around the patient. When undergoing treatment there is a lot of equipment around the bed, and if people are in for a while they have all their own bits & pieces too - everything in an already limited space. And having to ask visitors to take large items home each time they visit can also be a pain.
So whilst on the surface you might feel like it's the "Health & Safety police" being too bureaucratic again, often it really is in the best interest of the patient, especially people being treated for cancer who have weakened immune systems.
But all is not lost, if you would like to send a little gift to show your support, there are still some wonderful gifts that you can send to people in hospital!
Here's our handy guide to the great alternatives you could send instead and why your friend or relative will love them:
Often it is difficult to rest and sleep in hospital. Having other people around, noise from
patients or noise from machines on the ward, and the lights being switched on and off all night can make it very difficult to relax. A natural lavender pillow spray and pretty eye mask and ear plug set are ideal gifts to create a more relaxed atmosphere and get that much needed rest to recuperate.
Being in a scratchy, dull hospital gown just makes you feel somewhat depersonalised, uncomfortable, clinical and, let's face it, rather exposed. A feminine, soft alternative can work wonders in making you feel you again. Front-fastening pyjamas or kimonos would be the best options. There's nothing like climbing into a fresh pair of PJs when you're stuck in bed day after day.
Inevitably spending time in hospital means spending lots of time in bed. Being comfortable is essential. A practical and helpful gift such a v-shaped cushion or tablet stand can be used when staying in hospital and brought home afterwards for long term comfort.
Keepsakes work well. Flowers wilt and die but something to keep and treasure is a perfect gift to show you are thinking of them. And if the reason your friend is in hospital was quite sudden, then some nice toiletries will be a nice treat. Maybe a lovely hand cream or lip balm.
Having cold feet just makes you feel that little worse for wear. Bed socks make a lovely little gift to help keep those toes cosy and slip on slippers can help when padding to and from the bathroom on the cold lino floors.
Boredom constantly nips at the heels of every hospital patient. Gifts that help fight boredom are really welcomed. Craft kits and adult colouring books can help pass the time and if they have a relative or close friend visiting daily why not think of something they can do together such as a puzzle book.
And if you're determined to send something edible, and as long as their treatment allows, I am sure their favourite treats would be gratefully received and make a nice change from the hospital food!
Please note: There is still no official ruling from the Department of Health on what can and can't be taken onto wards by patients themselves and visitors. For the time being each Trust, hospital and/or ward have their own policies on flowers and fruit gifts so if in any doubt before visiting or sending a gift, it is good idea to phone ahead.
Anikka Burton is the founder of www.notanotherbunchofflowers.com and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33.