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Help is just a phone call away

20th November 2020

Hospice Neighbours St Raphaels Hospice

Submitted by Melanie Kirkwood, St Raphael’s Hospice

On Friday 20/3/20 in line with our organisational risk assessment and advice from NHS England our compassionate Neighbour Volunteers were all informed that face to face visits were no longer possible. Both patients and volunteers were devastated by this news.

On the agreement of both patients and volunteers we kept in touch by telephone. This was a new and very strange way for them to keep in touch.

There was no time for extensive training and although some volunteers were very apprehensive going from face to face to telephone contact, they took up the challenge and have kept our patients' spirits up and have continued to do so reporting any concerns/ worries to the coordinator.

Three patients did not have a family member who could drop off emergency milk and bread so we devised socially distanced drop offs of supplies for these patients. As we deliver end of life care it has been far more difficult to deal with the death of two of these patients, as we would normally be able to pay our last respects at the funeral to family. One of these patients' daughters came from the U.S.A and when I spoke to her in the hospice she said how much her father had appreciated his volunteer going the extra mile and dropping off supplies.

Many members of this team have also helped on the front line reception in our hospice welcoming both staff and reduced numbers of visitors taking their temperatures and making sure that all were adhering to procedures, liaising with IPU, ambulance crews, funeral directors and our clinical nurse specialists to ensure our service was not impacted. All of this whilst knowing we may have COVID patients on our ward.

The whole team has been supportive and ready to take on all the challenges I have thrown at them. Our only means of contact has been telephone and Zoom Meetings.

Eric, a current patient, was disappointed when Nick, his Hospice Neighbour was unable to visit after lockdown was implemented. However Nick has called him regularly for a chat and Eric looks forward to when he can start visiting him again. Eric was having trouble with his hearing aids and it was difficult for him to hear the television.

“I had a pair of Bluetooth headphones that were linked to the television but I couldn’t find the charger. I mentioned this to Nick and he said that he might have one. The next day there was a knock at the door and there was Nick with a charger, we were so grateful. He has also offered to get us shopping and we both know that he will help us in any way that he can.

We have 3 sons who are very good but they live a long way away, so it is a great comfort to know that we can talk to Nick if we need him ."

Another patient wrote “I love my calls with MV she brightens my day. She listens to me talking about my family and we make each other laugh I cannot wait for the day that you can introduce MV to me in person."

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