Like many other hospices, St Margaret’s Hospice Care in Somerset has been adapting its working practices in order to support vulnerable patients and their families throughout the Covid crisis. This has included working in partnership with the local hospital, to accommodate its outpatient haematology and oncology services for patients with cancer.
Yeovil District Hospital approached St Margaret’s for help as they wanted to find a safer environment for their patients whose ability to fight off the coronavirus could be compromised because of their illness and potentially the chemotherapy they were receiving. Ensuring the clinical area was Covid-safe was also limiting the number of people who could be treated at the hospital.
The oncology and haematology service became operational at St Margaret’s Hospice in May, and within days was not only giving patients a safe environment to attend the clinic and receive their treatment, but has also brought about opportunities for further collaborative working between the hospital and hospice teams.
The benefit of the joint location became clear to both teams almost immediately. Karen has secondary breast cancer and has been receiving care from the hospital since 2012. Over the years Karen has also received support from St Margaret’s including at the hospice’s Sunflower Centre Day Hospice. Recently the oncology team suggested a referral to St Margaret’s in order to manage her breathlessness.
Karen says: “The treatment centre in Yeovil District Hospital is my safe place, I have always described it as that. Even while they made changes to the layout and the number of patients that could be seen because of the coronavirus, I always felt safe.
“However, when I was told the chemo unit was moving to the hospice, I was over the moon. It helped ease some worries that were naturally in the back of my mind every time I walked through the hospital.”
Ali Hodgson, Lead Physiotherapist at the St Margaret’s Hospice Yeovil Hub contacted Karen to discuss how the hospice could support her. While making arrangements to assess her symptoms, Karen mentioned that she was attending the hospice for her chemotherapy treatment the following week. “It was perfect, I realised this was an opportunity to be able to have a face-to-face appointment with Karen with appropriate social distancing to offer her some self-management techniques and strategies as she was already attending the hub” Ali says.
“We have always seen patients in an outpatient clinic setting in the Yeovil building but since the remodelling of our services took place last year we had plans for other opportunities, for example a gym space for individual and group exercise programs, which is on hold due to the crisis.”
Karen continued, “It was great to be able to see Ali at the same time as I was receiving my chemotherapy treatment. The exercises and techniques have had a positive effect on my breathlessness and they are easy to do. Even after a week I’ve already felt the benefit and my anxiety levels have reduced. Also, the oncology team have more space to be able to treat people safely which is a great comfort.”
The hospice team is equally pleased to offer this service. Ann Lee, CEO of St Margaret’s Hospice Care said: “We are delighted to be able to help our NHS colleagues in Yeovil to ensure their chemotherapy patients can receive their much needed treatment in the safety of our unit. This is a great example of the collaborative way Somerset is pulling together to fight the Coronavirus outbreak and actively shielding those people most at risk.
“Throughout this period we will continue to adapt our care provision to support healthcare communities, community volunteer groups and other charities. Our strength working together is improving the overall wellbeing of those most at risk – the compassion we are seeing across the county is wonderful and a real testament to everyone’s determination to ensuring patients and families facing a life-limiting illness are cared and supported during this crisis.”
Jonathan Higman, Chief Executive of Yeovil District Hospital echoed Ann thoughts: “It’s absolutely vital that our patients who require these treatments can continue to access our oncology and haematology services during this unprecedented period.
“We already have very strict processes in place to minimise the risk of any patient attending our hospital coming into contact with anyone who has or may have the coronavirus. By temporarily moving these services out of the hospital and to a dedicated space in the St Margaret’s Hospice Yeovil Hub, we can reduce that risk even further for these vulnerable patients, for whom the virus could cause very serious symptoms.
“We are very grateful to our colleagues at St Margaret’s Hospice Care for allowing us to temporarily use their facility in this way. This is another example of the local system coming together for the benefit of our local population.”
For more information visit St Margaret’s Hospice