Support for the community through Covid-19 and beyond

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Gemma Allen, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at The Mary Stevens Hospice in Stourbridge, writes about launching a new information hub to support the local community through Covid-19 and beyond.

Every year The Mary Stevens Hospice cares for around 250 patients in our 10-bed In-Patient unit, in addition to 6,500 Day Services Unit attendances where we provide peer support, clinical intervention and therapies.  We offer activities such as art and music, complementary therapies, have dedicated counselling and clinical rooms, and quiet spaces so that patients and their families can take time to gather their thoughts and reflect.

With an aging population and more people living with chronic health conditions and co-morbidities, the volume of people requiring our support during the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly increased. To address this we increased the capacity of our services as part of an immediate community response to support those living with long term conditions, people approaching the end of life, and those bereaved during the pandemic.

We did this by establishing the Advice Hub on April 15th, a telephone and online support service providing support for people with care needs as well as carers, health care professionals and members of the public. The Hub has helped to provide timely care to the most vulnerable, support additional people, reduce unplanned admissions to hospital, combat loneliness and support resilience.

The service is available seven days a week between the hours of 8:00-16:00, with an out-of- hours answerphone service. Furthermore, in a digital age with people more likely to access advice and support online, we built a specific Covid-19 community response platform for people to access via the hospice website, containing advice, resources, education and signposting information. Some information, including advance care planning for people with learning disabilities, evoked a wider response and is available on the websites of several other organisation. The information on the website includes:

  • Practical support e.g. personal hygiene needs/ manual handling
  • Emotional and spiritual support
  • Advance care planning
  • Symptom management and medication advice
  • Signposting e.g. shopping, prescriptions and care packages
  • Care and support for carers when a loved one is in the last hours of life

The Advice Hub was recently able to support a carer who contacted us stating her father had a prognosis of less than six months, and her mother was being nursed in bed following discharge from an unplanned hospital admission. With no care package in place for either parent the caller was very distressed, stating she felt unsupported and unsure what to expect in the final stages of life.

The clinician gave advice about disease trajectory, symptom management and advance care planning, including preferred place of care, medication, tissue viability, and incontinence products, and signposted the caller to the respiratory and district nurse teams.

Follow up support was required, and the carer received a weekly call from the Advice Hub over three consecutive weeks. After this period she stated that she felt better informed and supported to continue caring for her parents at home and no longer required weekly contact. She accessed further resources from our website.

Data collected between April and June confirmed that over half (51 per cent) the people who had contact with the Advice Hub were from care homes, followed by 26 per cent of calls from family carers, 18 per cent from members of the public and 5 per cent from health care professionals.

Reasons for contact have been varied, including contact directly related to symptom control/medicine management (18 per cent), bereavement and family support (9 per cent), crisis intervention (4 per cent), practical advice including PPE and equipment queries (47 per cent), advance care planning (4 per cent) and signposting (14 per cent).

A comprehensive review of the data log found that not all calls were linear, with people requiring further support and advice.  Around 13 per cent of callers received follow up telephone contact, letters or emails from the hospice.

We engaged widely with our community using a variety of different methods to let them know about the Advice Hub. This included social media, press, radio and podcast, telephone, online and postal communications. The hospice website has received increased engagement with 34 per cent of our visitors accessing the COVID-19 response page and resources.

During the time period stated, the Advice Hub provided 440 hours of telephone support, and five people were admitted to the In-Patient Unit as a result.

An initial summary report recommends that the service continues, not only during times of Covid-19, but in the future for people with life-limiting conditions, carers, care homes and members of the wider community to access in their time of need. Calls we’ve received from friends, neighbours and family members confirm that end of life care is everyone’s business, with a focus on ambition six of the National Palliative and End of Life Care national framework: ‘each community is prepared to help.’

For more information visit The Mary Stevens Hospice

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