Background Wellbeing centres across the UK have been closed to face-to-face attendances by terminally ill patients and their carers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 (Swann, Easton, McGuinness, et al., 2021). Day hospices have had to be flexible (Dunleavy, Preston, Bajwah, et al., 2021; Etkind, Bone, Lovell, et al., 2020; Stevens, Martin, White, 2011) and think creatively (Roberts, 2021) to maintain support for our patients. We developed a virtual programme to continue our high level of support for our patients and carers.
Aims We aimed to offer a wide variety of virtual sessions to our patients and their loved ones to help with symptom control and maintain social and psychological support (Stevens, Martin, White, 2011).
Methods We provided virtual group sessions such as yoga, exercise classes, guided relaxation, art, Q&A sessions with our doctors, discussion support groups, carers’ groups, management of breathlessness and pain, anxiety and fatigue management, in addition to one-to-one nursing assessments. Our complementary therapist offered aromatherapy education and our physiotherapists supported patients to maintain mobility and physical function. Two online surveys captured service users’ experience of the virtual programme.
Results Our first virtual session was held on 1 April 2020 with three participants attending. This grew to 18 scheduled sessions per week supporting an average of 23 patients a day. Up to April 2021, we had 4,525 attendances and 371 external referrals. Our survey showed that attendees felt the online sessions improved mood (91.2%) and helped to improve symptom management (84.2%).
Conclusions Our patients and carers showed keen enthusiasm for the virtual wellbeing sessions. We plan to continue to offer this support going forward alongside a return to face-to-face sessions when possible with the advantage of extending the reach of our service to patients and carers who may not be able to attend in person. Maintaining a link with the hospice during the pandemic and social interaction for our patients who have been shielding at home has been appreciated.
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