Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodlands Hospice Wellbeing and Support Centre ran several regular groups plus nurse-led clinics for patients well enough to attend the hospice. When the pandemic started it was clear that this would no longer be an option as most of the patients were in the shielding category.
Clearly the needs of these patients would not go away but the community palliative care and district nursing services could not be expected to take on the role that the hospice had previously played, as they also faced increased demand due to the pandemic.
Out of necessity and working towards a new city-wide integrated palliative care model, a decision was made to move to a system of triage coordinators and regular nurse led telephone clinics to monitor these patients. The nursing team underwent an education programme to enhance their triage and symptom management skills and they had ready access to the medical team for support if there were problems.
Consultations are carried out by telephone or video consultation as well as face-to-face where needed. The nursing team gradually took over the surveillance role of the medical clinics to free capacity for urgent medical appointments so patients could be assessed by the doctors when problems arise or when symptoms are more complex. The triage coordinator now looks at all referrals coming into the hospice and assesses the patient’s needs to ensure the patient is linked into the most appropriate services. All this integrated working has reduced the time from referral to comprehensive specialist nursing assessment in the hospice from two weeks to within five working days. The working relationships with all teams has become closer and more effective, and patients are still able to access services despite the restrictions that the pandemic has brought.
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