Aims To develop the role of the volunteer to provide telephone support for patient goals following a self-management approach.
Description It is recognised that continued self-management in a long-term condition is difficult to sustain. The lymphoedema specialist service has limitations for supporting longer term goals and providing the social support needs of some of the patient group. It was identified that positive regular input could assist in continued self-management. Volunteers were unable to continue their usual role in the clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was acknowledged that their skills could support patients in a less illness focused method.
The Volunteer telephone support service (VTSS) was developed with input from both lymphoedema/lipoedema patients and volunteers. The documentation, established in collaboration with patients and volunteers, assists with background information, purpose of the call, a guide through the phone call and a reminder of any ‘red flags’ which would need urgent follow up. At present the VTSS runs one day fortnightly. Outcomes of the calls are documented and there is a de-brief for the volunteer with a specialist lymphoedema practitioner to highlight any issues or follow up required. The patients decide whether they wish for further contact and the timescales are mutually agreed with the volunteer. The documentation generated is scanned into the electronic notes as a record of the contact.
Evaluation So far (March – May) 27 patients have been supported by this service, 13 requested regular contact with the volunteers and nine appropriate review appointments generated.
Evaluation - by questionnaire to the service users as well as quotes obtained during phone contacts and feedback from the volunteers. The service has evaluated very positively by both the patients and the volunteers.
We plan to develop this service by training more volunteers and encouraging a ‘buddy’ system to review goals particularly around exercise/activity and weight loss.
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