On the frontline: “Covid-19 has made it hard, but we’re as compassionate with our care as ever”

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Barry Morgan is the Community Palliative Care Team leader at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity in Cambridge, leading the charity’s Hospice at Home team.

Here he tells ehospice about providing patients with as normal a service as possible despite the challenges of Covid-19.

The Coronavirus pandemic has made our team more reactive in the way that we work, looking at different ways of assessing patients and carrying out consultations that minimise contact. We’ve embraced the use of digital technology, with things like Zoom to carry out assessments. We’re having to do a lot more telephone support with patients and other health professionals too, but we’ve been trying to keep service as normal as possible, still going out to visit patients when there’s a real clinical need and we can’t just speak to them over the telephone.

We’re working much more closely with the consultants, the clinical specialists, and colleagues who work in other departments such as the day therapy unit and the psychological services. We meet every morning to talk about our patient caseloads – the crisis has given us an opportunity to see how we can work more effectively, and we’re using this to see what other things we could do that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

The hardest thing has been that we can’t just go out and see a patient in their home, we have to be a lot more conscious of what we’re doing and there’s a lot more risk assessment. We’re mindful of all the government guidance on social distancing and PPE, and the number of health and social care professionals that could potentially be going into a patient’s home. It’s about considering the patients and their families.

We’re still trying to show as much compassion with our care as always, it’s just more difficult when you’re not actually face-to-face with someone, particularly when you’re having difficult discussions, talking about someone’s preferences as to how they’d like to be cared for with regards to a life-limiting condition, or their end of life care.

With Zoom meetings and video conferencing at least we can see people’s faces, so it’s kind of a compromise between what we’re able to do face-to-face and what we would do over the phone. That’s enabled us to work in a way that’s safe, but also to be as compassionate as we were before.

There are a lot of positive things we can get out of this situation, like opportunities to look at how we’re working now and incorporate the best bits into how we work in the future. For example the use of technology might enable us to reach out to more professionals, and for more people to access our services more efficiently. But also I think there will be negative impacts, like the charity’s ability to raise funds. I see that recovering, but it could take a lot longer than a few weeks or a few months, it’s hard to say.

Some of my colleagues have a moment during the day when they’ll go to a communal area, put on a song and have a five minute dance. People are generally positive, and there’s good banter. We have a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with news, to share jokes, or if people are having a hard day it’s a bit of support for one another. We’re doing everything we can to keep the morale up. We know that the situation we’re in at the moment is not going to be forever, we just have to be resilient and do what we can as safely as we can to get through this.

We’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of support from the community, who have donated a lot of masks and PPE to us. I get very emotional when I think about the people around the country that clapped every Thursday evening in support of all keyworkers. Seeing that national response, it makes me incredibly proud to be just one person along with many, many others who are able to do their bit for patients and families, trying to continue to provide as normal a service as we can.

For more information visit Arthur Rank Hospice Charity

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