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P-98 Bereavement services during a pandemic; an adapted model of care
  1. Lorraine Blanking
  1. St Helena Hospice, Colchester, UK


St Helena Hospice bereavement services provides therapeutic support to adults, irrespective of cause of death, and sits within a catchment that has approximately 360,000 individuals across North and Mid Essex. On average the service supports approximately 255 bereaved service users at any one time. The majority of these clients have no prior affiliation with the hospice and have frequently been bereaved in traumatic circumstances and may also have pre-existing mental health conditions.

The bereavement service adapted its model of care during the COVID-19 pandemic, from a ‘face-to-face’ counselling and support service to a virtual one. The entire team moved ‘out of the office’ and began a new routine of home working, with just 36 hours’ notice, which continued for 15 months (to date).

Counsellors, support workers and support volunteers offered video or telephone consultation to all clients in service and found that the vast majority opted for telephone support instead of video consultation. In the first nine months of home working, as well as providing support to clients already referred, the team reached out to all care homes and GP surgeries in the vicinity and offered emotional support to staff, service users and families. In total, the service supported 98 care homes to manage the devastating impact of COVID-19 deaths of residents and staff.

Service waiting lists grew in the final six months of the pandemic as referral numbers increased. To manage this, the service reduced the length of support sessions from 50 minutes to 30 minutes and staff were asked to increase their caseloads to ensure that we offered support to as many individuals as possible. The service is working to seek funding via external sources, but also working positively with commissioners to recognise the service need locally.

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