Keeping hospice patients and their loved ones close despite COVID-19 restrictions
Every year, Marie Curie community nursing teams and hospices in the UK provide care for more than 40,000 terminally ill people. The increasing numbers of people with COVID-19, however, means the hospices have had to make the difficult decision of restricting open visiting to ensure services are maintained, and patients, visitors and staff are protected.
We worked at pace to enable hospice staff to roll out virtual visits instead – helping them do this quickly, safely and securely – and at no added cost. Virtual visits have brought comfort to patients and their loved ones across all nine hospices in the UK.
- Enabled virtual visits for hundreds of patients in nine Marie Curie hospices in just three weeks
- Made the process for arranging a virtual visit fast and simple to keep as much time as possible free for caring
- Collaborated with front-line staff to ensure processes and guidance fitted seamlessly into working practice
- Addressed infection control and data privacy issues to keep virtual visits safe and secure
Balancing speed and quality
Through its network of hospices across the UK, the Marie Curie charity provides vital care for people who are living with a terminal illness and who are dying. With increasing numbers of people with COVID-19, Marie Curie wanted to ensure it could continue to provide the best possible emotional support for hospice patients and their loved ones. So, getting handheld devices into action to enable virtual visits was urgent. The devices had to be introduced in a way that required minimum training and that fitted seamlessly into normal practices. We successfully balanced the demand for speed and quality, ensuring processes were simplified at a critical time. It took us just one week to begin rolling out the technology, along with guidelines for hospice staff that made arranging virtual visits quick and simple.
From the outset, we worked closely with front-line staff to understand their requirements. We shared our progress bi-daily to check we were on the right track as we developed a standard process for scheduling a visit, launching and closing a call, and managing devices. Careful listening helped us win the trust and confidence of all staff and ease the introduction of the new process.
During this collaborative phase, other important issues emerged. Infection control was paramount. Marie Curie staff helped us understand the protocols to build in to ensure devices didn’t spread infection. We also identified data privacy as key. We included provision for Marie Curie’s central IT team to wipe personal data from devices after each visit, saving staff time and ensuring data didn’t leak.
Making a difference within days
Within three weeks, we rolled-out handheld devices at the charity’s nine hospices, making virtual visits from loved ones available to hundreds of Marie Curie patients. By rapidly developing a practical process to enable virtual visits, we helped hospice patients and their loved ones feel closer together in the most challenging of times.
“We were delighted when PA reached out to offer free support during the pandemic. At the time, we faced the dual challenge of a devastating loss of fundraising income, and how best to protect and support our most vulnerable patients, their visitors and our staff,” says Julie Pearson, Chief Nurse and Executive Director of Caring Services, Marie Curie.