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22nd April 2020

Hospice leads local end of life service to support the community

St Helena Hospice has launched a new way of working to provide care and support to anyone at the end of life in north east Essex – not just hospice patients.

The local charity has expanded its existing SinglePoint service which provides 24/7 advice and support over the phone, and rapid response emergency visits to patients’ homes when they are in crisis.

The enhanced role for SinglePoint comes as St Helena Hospice agreed with the local NHS to act as the lead organisation coordinating all out of hospital end of life care activity in north east Essex for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Hospice is now therefore admitting patients from the hospital, as well as its usual hospice patients, and has added an additional two-bedded bay, taking the number of beds available to 18.

Mark Jarman-Howe, St Helena Hospice’s chief executive, said: “We have thought very carefully about a different model of care that would best support the NHS and allow us to step up and ensure that patients and families towards the end of life across north east Essex, get the care and support they need, when they need it, for however long this crisis continues.

“We have significantly expanded our SinglePoint service, so in addition to providing advice and support 24/7, we’re also acting as a coordinator for local services, to make sure that people are given the option of staying out of hospital if they don’t need to go in, but equally for dying people to have the option to come out of hospital and be cared for at home.

“We’re working very closely with Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE), the local community services provider, to make sure that the use of the beds at The Hospice, and in the community hospital wards in Clacton and Harwich are able to provide effective and joined up end of life care and support.”

Frank Sims, chief executive for ACE said: “Using SinglePoint as the co-ordination for end of life care in the area is working well. Together with St Helena we have managed to pool resources and have mobilised a team of senior nurse prescribers to cover a combined 24/7 rota so that patients in north east Essex have access to palliative care expertise anytime, night or day, which ultimately gives our patients the best service possible.”

St Helena Hospice is also working with a range of partners in the wider voluntary community services sector locally, to make sure that vulnerable people known to them are able to benefit from the community support available. Whether that’s having medicines delivered, making sure they’re getting food supplies, or providing vital social contact and emotional support for those who are now feeling more isolated than ever.

The Hospice has increased the number of beds available on its SinglePoint Virtual Ward service from 8 to 14 and is working with Bluebird Care to provide personal care to patients at home for up to two weeks, as well as giving them access to St Helena’s team of specialist nurses and doctors, should they need it.

Mr Jarman-Howe continued: “As a member of the North East Essex Health and Wellbeing Alliance (NEE Alliance), we have been working in partnership with other local healthcare organisations for a while now, but this pandemic has accelerated some of the joint operations we have been working towards.

“It’s so important that as healthcare organisations, we support each other and share our skills and knowledge to make sure that local people facing incurable illness receive the best possible care, whoever they are and wherever they are.

“To that end, we are also working in partnership with GPs. We have allocated all of our Hospice in the Home staff to local surgeries across Colchester and Tendring to make sure that we’re providing our expertise and knowledge of end of life care to support as many people as possible, either those affected directly by coronavirus or those who are already facing an incurable illness.”

This model of care is very different to St Helena Hospice’s usual services. For the safety of patients, and staff and volunteers, all day therapy groups have been suspended and the outpatient and counselling appointments normally provided face to face, are now offered over the phone or via video call to support those people.

All routine home visits have been postponed as resources are prioritised, and staff only enter vulnerable situations when they know it’s safe for the patient and themselves.

Visiting at The Hospice has also been suspended, with the exception of patients in their last days of life, where visiting is restricted to one visitor at any one time.

Mr Jarman-Howe added: “Our way of working has changed dramatically over the last few weeks and I am extremely proud of how all the teams have risen to the challenge.

“Some staff are working in completely different departments, others have changed their working patterns, and a few of them are living away from their families who are self isolating to ensure that they can continue to work. I am very grateful to them all for their dedication which shines through during these difficult times.”

It’s not just services and visiting that’s been suspended. St Helena Hospice has had to postpone a number of its mass participation fundraising events and has temporarily shut its shops. This is resulting in a huge loss of income for the local charity which relies on the generosity of the local community to fund two thirds of its running costs.

St Helena Hospice recently launched its Urgent Appeal to raise funds to help them reach out and meet the needs of patients now, as well as in the future.

Mr Jarman-Howe asked: “At this time, it’s vital that we get the support of our local community. We’re dependant on the fundraising and donations that we kindly receive from our supporters and I ask that if you possibly can, please support our urgent appeal.”

To find out more about St Helena Hospice’s services or to donate to its urgent appeal, please click here

Posted: 22nd April 2020


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