Coronavirus: ‘Hospice patients and families have been truly amazing as phone calls replace personal visits’

Julia Bryan has to make her calls by phone rather than in person because she has asthma and that put

Julia Bryan has to make her calls by phone rather than in person because she has asthma and that puts her at increased risk of Covid-19. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

In the second of a weekly column from Saint Francis Hospice, Julia Bryan, clinical nurse specialist with the Specialist Community and Crisis Support team (SCCS), explains how they are managing in these challenging times

The team is in extreme demand due to the current crisis and therefore adapting different ways of working to ensure our team can continue supporting patients and families in the community.

I have asthma (which is a long term condition) and this puts me at increased risk, according to the Covid guidelines. But I want to be able to participate and do my best, so my clinical leads have ensured I am in an office on my own in order to reduce my chances of becoming ill and burden our acute services.

I am able to make contact on the telephone like this, follow up calls, do telephone assessments or take urgent calls overnight via the Specialist Advice Line service. I cannot do visits at the moment, but most of the team can and will do so in a crisis.

The SCCS team focus remains on symptom management, having advanced care planning discussions, liaising with other community health care professionals, ensuring medications are prescribed and delivered to patients’ homes or making changes to medication to ensure patients are comfortable.

We play a valuable role in preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and preventing the emergency services being called out by being able to give patients and families reassurance and advice on symptom control.

The families and patients I have spoken to in the last week have been truly amazing, and very receptive to telephone assessments and they feel reassured that they can phone our 24/7 advice line if in need.

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And I’ve been truly humbled by the gratitude I’ve received from the people I’ve contacted.

I would normally visit patients and families to discuss advanced care planning but I have been able to have these very sensitive and difficult conversations over the phone. Knowing what patients want also helps our team to prevent A&E admissions at this time.

Many relatives have moved in with the patients to reduce the risk of Covid-19, so care agencies are not needed.

The strength of SCCS has always been the nurses, together with the administrators and the medical team who work alongside - all supporting each other and recognising everyone’s skills and talents. If you can support our Urgent Appeal, please donate today by visiting

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