Background When patients are discharged from a hospice inpatient unit many report feeling vulnerable and abandoned; in response, this hospice has set up a Volunteer Discharge Buddy Service to help alleviate these feelings, to maintain patient safety and restore confidence on returning home.
Aims The service aims to support patients and families with practical tasks during and following discharge. The Buddies offer support on the day of discharge and make follow-up visits for up to five weeks. They liaise with community services and signpost carers and families to other services as needed.
Methods To recruit Buddies, there is a rigorous selection process and intensive two-day training programme, which includes issues around working with palliative care patients; lone working policy; safeguarding and other relevant topics. The Discharge Coordinator allocates patients to Buddies, who meet each other prior to discharge; more complex patients are allocated two Buddies. All visits are recorded in the electronic patient notes. We hold monthly supervision sessions where the Buddies discuss their experiences and bring new ideas to develop the service. We find these invaluable.
Results An evaluation form is sent to each patient. Feedback indicates that patients and families feel very reassured by the service we provide. Feedback from colleagues has also been positive. In response to considerable interest from other hospices, we have developed an information pack to assist them in setting up their own service. Colleagues from other hospices have also visited.
Conclusion Uptake has been excellent and we are planning to recruit more Buddies and extend the service to include a ‘sitting’ service. Additionally, we have supported the community care teams by relieving them of the simpler issues that patients frequently raise following discharge and prevented possible re-admissions when patients or their families panicked when faced with the reality of being at home.
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