Over the last couple of weeks we’ve witnessed the palliative care sector diversify in exceptional ways. We caught up with Claire Marshall, CEO of Compton Care in Wolverhampton, who told us how they’re stepping up to support the NHS during the pandemic.
“In good times and in bad times we are here for our patients. It certainly is the toughest of times at the moment, but we are as dedicated as ever to putting our patients first.” Compton Care’s chief exec is explaining how the charity is rising to the unprecedented challenge Covid-19 is posing to the healthcare sector at large.
“It’s a complete collaborative effort. The view we’re taking is that our NHS colleagues are under severe strain, so for as long as we can we’re going to take as many palliative care patients as possible. It’s our job to care for people with complex and incurable conditions, and we need to take more of the strain during this crisis.”
The charity is supporting local hospital the Royal Wolverhampton Trust with three specific measures: making sure the IPU is running at full capacity, along with extra beds in the day centre; providing additional support for district nurses and GPs; and switching community services to support by phone and digital means.
The IPU has 18 beds, with a protected section to isolate patients with coronavirus, and the day centre – which had closed in line with government guidelines – has re-opened as the IPU2, with an additional five beds for patients that would otherwise be in hospital.
“Obviously palliative patients are always a joint responsibility across any region, but in this instance we’re trying to take the lion’s share to free our NHS colleagues up so they can deal with the coronavirus outbreak” Claire explains.
Compton’s Director of Nursing has based herself at the hospital some of the time to support colleagues, and they’re also running an in-reach service to identify patients that can be repatriated to Compton Care.
Face-to-face care at home will continue for urgent cases after checks are done over the phone before staff head out, but medication updates and enquiries about symptoms can be done via apps like Facetime or over the phone, to ensure they are still seeing as many patients as possible.
As with the entire charity sector, fundraising events have been cancelled, and many won’t be possible for the foreseeable future. “We need to be absolutely clear – our fundraising and retail income are taking a severe hit. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of losses. This is very frightening, particularly as we are not only continuing our services, but extending them. However it means we’re refocusing on digital means, and people are getting very creative.”
Supporters have been rallying round in remarkably inventive ways; Claire mentions one lady who’s been hosting a virtual disco, asking friends to donate for each song they request. “We’ve got people who are actually trying to enjoy themselves in their confinement but who keep supporting us, which is really lovely.”
Another supporter has set up a pen pal scheme to get people writing in to staff and patients, to support them during this stressful time. “It’s a really lovely thing to do. Sharing positivity and love at this time is really important.”
In terms of keeping their patients’ spirits up, Claire explains that it’s very much bespoke, because while some patients may be very affected by what’s happening, for others it’s merely incidental. “We’re making sure they can use technology to communicate with people outside, for instance in the case of one of our patients who attends a social group regularly, we were able to hook her up with them via Facetime. We’re also providing more treats and more entertainment, anything people would like to do to feel occupied and entertained. This is really important at any time, but particularly now if they’re switching the news on and it’s all doom and gloom.”
Members of staff have been supporting each other too. “The levels of cake have definitely increased” Claire says with a laugh. “Today we’re having a delivery of cupcakes for all the staff because we do find that a bit of sugar gets everybody through.”
There’s been an increase in the number of selfies, funny emails and positive messages – Claire describes a particularly moving note left by staff doing a handover that said “You’re doing an amazing job, keep going!”
“People are doing all kinds of sweet things to keep morale going because I think we’re all conscious this situation is going to last for quite a long time.”
For more information visit Compton Care