In light of the current pandemic, we’ve had to adapt the ways we deliver essential care to the community. But we’re making sure that Martlets continues to care for everyone who needs support, says Evelyn Prodger, head of Martlets’ community services.
To protect patients and our staff we’re doing more contact by telephone so we’re limiting the number of face-to-face visits. The biggest thing for us is that the hub – our 24 hour telephone advice line – continues to run, to provide the kind of constant support that out patients are used to. We’re having more telephone contact than we would have done because we want to keep in touch with everyone and make sure they feel supported during these uncertain times.
There are no outpatient appointments or social groups at the moment. We anticipated people might be a bit upset about the prospect of losing this social contact, but on the whole everyone has been very appreciative of the fact we are taking these precautions to keep them safe. We’ve had a lot of positive support and I think lots of people felt quite relieved that we’d moved towards social distancing and more phone contact as a means of support.
Niks Kent who leads the family and patient support team has created a ‘virtual welfare centre’ to look after people on our books who may be particularly isolated. For some people who would come to day services and our social groups we might have been their only social contact, so we’re maintaining telephone interaction with that group of people; we’re still providing support, just in a different way. It’s an important means of keeping in contact with those already on our caseloads.
Our specialist staff have been in telephone contact with over 100 (and rising) patients to support them with their social and emotional needs. Conversations are hard, while some patients are coping well with the changes in their world, others are understandably distressed with the changes to their care or treatment or trying to manage unexpected loneliness.
We’re also getting new referrals to Martlets so it’s business as usual in that respect, but we’re doing more referrals and gathering of information over the phone than previously. A lot of forward planning is taking place to make sure we can prioritise and manage our caseloads over time given the current pandemic.
We’re making sure we’ve got the right kit in to keep our staff and patients safe. So if you see our community nurse specialists arriving in white scrubs don’t be alarmed – white was all that was available!
We’ve created a criteria for when we need to visit people; our nurses are still seeing people at home, but they’re trying to do as much of the assessment as they can over the phone before they go in; so we’re limiting the amount of time in people’s houses.
Our Hospice at Home team are also visiting, but again we’re working differently so we can minimise face-to-face contact, though we’re balancing that with the needs of each individual person.
When we ring ahead of a visit we’re asking the key questions: Has anyone in the household got a temperature or a new cough? And we’re repeating these questions on the doorstep. We’re also checking people’s temperatures when we get there and asking that no more than one relative is present during an appointment, and they must not be within two metres. We’re wearing gloves and aprons in line with the Public Health England guidance and discussing daily any updates to this guidance so we can act on it accordingly.
Although there’s a lot we can do on the phone, particular tasks do require you to be there with a patient. Administering medication is a big one and examining patients can be crucial. Language difficulties can also be a reason to go into the home; if someone is blind or lip reads then sometimes the online technology doesn’t work so well; we’re assessing those people on an individual basis and coming up with ways to keep them and us safe.
Thank you for your support
A huge thank you to everyone who’s donated to our Martlets Crisis Appeal. Please continue to support us as a charity. Quite simply, without your support we would be unable to provide this essential care to local people affected by life-limiting illness. We want patients and families to be able to make the most of the precious time they have, now more than ever.
You can donate online here. Whatever you give it will help us keep our 24 hour phone hub running and keep our team on the road, visiting vulnerable people who urgently need our care. With your support we’ll get to everyone who needs us across our community.