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We have read with interest your letter about the changing face of day hospices since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to share our experience of support provided by our Wellbeing Centre team during this time which has evolved and developed into what is currently an entirely virtual service. This has been a challenging but also an extremely positive experience with an enthusiastic response from our patients wanting to engage in our extensive virtual offer of hospice wellbeing services.
In March 2020, we began by offering 3 virtual sessions per week. This has grown exponentially over the year and we are now offering up to 4 sessions per day with a total of 18 sessions per week supporting, on average, 23 patients per day. We have provided multiple types of support including yoga and other exercise classes, guided relaxation, art, Q&A sessions with our doctors, discussion support groups, carers’ groups, management of breathlessness and pain, and anxiety and fatigue management.
Age range of attendees of the virtual sessions have been between 40 to 90 years old, and from early to late in their disease trajectory. Between April 2020 and April 2021, we had 4,603 attendances with 413 referrals to the service.
We have conducted service evaluations to evaluate this new way of providing support to our patients and the feedback indicates that patients are keen for support to continue to be provided virtually.
“Keep at it even after loc...
“Keep at it even after lockdown finishes, it is too good not to use on the right occasions”
“Very useful and enjoyable Don’t want to lose this opportunity for support”
However, there is also excitement at the prospect of being able to return to the hospice in person.
“This is wonderful technology but cannot wait for the hospice to be opened for our Wellbeing classes and to come in person!”
We conducted a service evaluation of our virtual video interactions with patients after the first wave of COVID-19. 92% of Wellbeing attendees stated that they be happy to communicate with healthcare staff at our hospice via a video link in the future. In a separate service evaluation, it was noted that the most common reasons for patients wanting to attend the virtual Wellbeing sessions were for emotional benefits (63%), contact with others (58%), contact with the hospice (56%) and to receive support for their medical condition (44%).
Although this way of providing support to patients with life-limiting illness may not be the preferred method, we have been surprised by the enthusiasm of the patients and their keen uptake of the sessions. Alongside a return to face-to-face sessions when possible, we plan to continue to offer virtual Wellbeing sessions going forward given the great success of the programme and also the extending the reach of our service to support both patients and carers who may not be able to attend the hospice in person. Maintaining support and a link with the hospice during the pandemic and providing a form of social interaction for our patients who have been shielding at home during the pandemic has been really appreciated and valued.