Technology allows Saint Francis Hospice to be run from homes

Dawn Poon, Chris Franklin and Phil Pigeon. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Dawn Poon, Chris Franklin and Phil Pigeon. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

Dawn Poon is the systems programme director at Saint Francis Hospice. She explains how the hospice managed to arrange for most of its staff to work from home, and how she then caught coronavirus.

Since I joined 18 months ago, I’ve been redesigning systems to ensure our technology reflects the current digital landscapes — whether those be in our ward, offices, or charity retail stores: such as the tills.

They all need to be in sync, up to date, and fit for purpose.

When Boris Johnson announced the lockdown in March, we had to get lots of staff off-site – quickly. Overnight, it became a case of asking more than 200 people to stay home, and having to find a solution for them to work from home effectively. Within three days, we managed to set up everyone – bar our frontline staff – to work from their homes.

This was an incredible achievement but it wasn’t without our IT team making huge sacrifices, working long nights and giving up weekends. It seemed as though everyone in the world was trying to get hold of laptops, webcams, office chairs and other equipment. We’re still feeling the effects; the supply chain is still incredibly slow.

I caught Covid-19 and had to spend a week in bed with what felt like heavy flu. The weakening of my lungs led to pneumonia. My illness made me realise how real the situation is and how vulnerable people are. After self-isolating, I’ve safely returned to the hospice to work closely with our head of health and safety officer to put measures in place to ensure everyone feels safe. The next phase is about sustaining people’s ability to work from home – we’re not all going to return soon.

We’re looking at providing workstation assessments for staff so they don’t develop aches, pains, or any long-term conditions – without wanting to “drop” entire offices into their homes.

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Returning staff to our hospice will be slow and measured, but our wish of allowing patients’ loved ones to visit our ward has remained possible. It’s testament to everyone here that people still feel safe visiting our ward – despite any fears they may have.

Until there’s at least a readily-available vaccine, we won’t be pushing for life to go back to how it was pre-pandemic any time soon. We don’t want to undo all the good work that we’ve done.

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