Background Due to the pandemic a death from COVID-19 has meant families have little time to prepare for the death of a loved one, the ability to say goodbye following a death can be taken away, the opportunity to hold a traditional funeral can be prohibited, and coping with the bereavement can cause additional distress due to a person having limited support around.
Aim To develop a bereavement support service for people in the local community and surrounding region in the North East of England.
Method Marie Curie North East were able to recruit an additional bereavement coordinator. This individual was tasked with developing a specific service and scoping additional projects. The service was developed with the strategic aim of extending the reach of the hospice into the community. Engagement work with local health providers/community groups guided development of service provision. The service was promoted through local media and social media sources. Volunteer recruitment, training and ongoing supervision were established. Interventions offered are monthly bereavement support/weekly counselling sessions depending on assessment of risk and need. Sessions delivered via telephone/digital platform. Referrals accepted from health care professionals as well as self-referral pathways.
Results Between September 2020 and June 2021, 34 referrals were received with 199 contacts. Patients on average had six contacts from a counsellor or highly trained volunteer. The volunteer workforce makes up 80% of team and are invaluable to continued service. Qualitative patient feedback has been positive.
‘For me it was perfect, 100% what I needed. Being able to talk and offload my feelings has helped so much... having someone listen to me and tell me that all I was feeling was normal.’
Conclusions Marie Curie Bereavement services need to adapt to meet the changing needs and demands in response to pandemic. Engagement work across the community has been integral to the development, outreach and promotion of the service.
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