How Saint Francis Hospice delivered care throughout the pandemic

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.
Saint Francis Hospice’s Director of Quality and Care, Tes Smith

When the coronavirus pandemic was declared, hospices faced the challenge of continuing to deliver their services while keeping patients, their families and staff safe from infection. Saint Francis Hospice’s Director of Quality and Care, Tes Smith, explains the measures the Essex charity put in place to continue providing care.

When news of the Covid-19 viral outbreak first hit the UK in January, the hospice decided to act  quickly, believing the first two months of the pandemic to be crucial. “We had to get ahead and prepare for the possibility of the infection rate soaring, which soon became a reality” Tes explains.

One of the first decisions many hospitals and care homes took was to put a stop to visitors. Tes says that the decision on people visiting the ward was one of the hardest Saint Francis Hospice has had to make in its 35-year history. “We simply couldn’t deprive people of visiting their loved ones in what could be their final moments” she said. “It’s a credit to everyone that visitors are still safely welcomed at the hospice to cherish those precious moments.”

Hospice care at home

Tes acknowledges that when most people think about Saint Francis Hospice the first thing that springs to mind is care on the ward. Yet four out of five people the hospice cares for are in the community. These services include Hospice at Home, Community Clinical Nurse Specialists, bereavement support, physiotherapy and occupational and complementary therapies.

Many of the teams are hands-on and in people’s homes. Not only do they have to manage social distancing, but also people’s fear of them bringing the coronavirus into their households.

“Our Hospice at Home team discovered that delivering care with a smile behind a mask, and not being able to touch, is an enormous challenge” Tes says. “And delivering end of life care, alongside multiple health conditions, suddenly became even more complex with the added threat of the coronavirus”

Staying connected to patients

Due to lockdown restrictions the hospice had to temporarily close Pemberton Place, the charity’s social hub for people living with life-limiting illnesses. This was a difficult decision because of how valuable the service is for patients. “Pemberton Place is a lifeline for many” Tes said. “We didn’t want to cut that aid off entirely. We’ve been in regular contact with our outpatients through phone calls — supporting them both mentally and physically.”

OrangeLine is the hospice’s phone line for those in need of a friendly conversation. It has proven especially valuable since social distancing guidelines were put in place, and the volunteers answering the helpline have been handling calls from people feeling more alone and isolated than usual. “Many receiving bereavement therapy became disheartened that sessions couldn’t be held in person, which created another need for care” Tes said.

There isn’t one service that hasn’t had to adapt, and everyone at the hospice has had to adjust to enable the charity to continue delivering throughout the pandemic. “We have to behave as though everyone has tested positive for COVID-19” Tes explained. “People have been accepting and understanding, which is a testament to our staff and the community.”

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