St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth has invested £600,000 into a new Crisis Team to provide terminally ill patients a 72 hour window of specialist care at home.
The new service will complement existing care provisions currently provided to over 3,000 patients by St Luke’s at home; in hospital and in the hospice. The Crisis Team is another major milestone in the hospice’s core aim to reach out and care for even more local people at home as part of a “Hospice without Walls”.
Launched on 17 November, The Crisis Team will care for terminally ill patients at home including residential and nursing homes, in a time of crisis for a period of up to 72 hours; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The creation of the Crisis Team is a result of national research conducted by Hospice UK identifying that 63% of people would prefer to die at home and sadly this does not happen in all cases. It has become very apparent that by launching this service, St Luke’s can make a substantial difference at a local level.
The Crisis Team is making a bold move to ensure that for terminally ill patients, unnecessary hospital or hospice admissions are dramatically reduced as Crisis Team Lead, Sharon Smerdon explains: “Responding within an hour, our aim is to ensure a patient remains at home, preventing unnecessary hospital or hospice admission or to facilitate rapid discharge from hospital or hospice back home. Sadly it is often the case that people do not die in their preferred place or their condition deteriorates and as a result they end up in hospital. It is hoped a short 72 hour intervention could actually stabilise their symptoms and avoid any unnecessary admission to Derriford or their local community hospital”.
The new service will also be there to assist and support families and carers who at times can be under immense pressure, supporting them to respond to a rapidly changing situation and enabling them to continue providing care. “A crisis can take many forms, it may not be just medical it could be because of a social breakdown for a terminally ill patient where their care support network has temporarily broken down”.
Following recruitment in the early Autumn, the staff of the Crisis Team have been undergoing an extensive training plan to ensure they are ready for the challenges that they face ahead. “We currently have a team of 14 says Sharon. “We have 3 staff nurses, 1 assistant practitioner and 10 health care assistants. Our team have undergone an extensive training plan to give them the additional specialist skills they need to care for terminally ill patients. They bring with them the most amazing variety of skills and backgrounds having previously worked, for example in Acute Care, Nursing Homes as well as working with people with learning disabilities. St Luke’s is providing these new staff with the specialist skills but they also bring with them knowledge and expertise that will be invaluable to their roles. They have to be able to walk into a home where they don’t know anybody and cope with whatever they find. The aim is to continue to expand the team in the New Year and we would be delighted to hear from registered nurses who would be interested in joining the team”.
On average the team will visit 4 or 5 patients a day for a period of a few hours at a time. This could involve several visits over 72 hours. With St Luke’s already providing specialist advice and support at home for over 350 patients through their existing network of Specialist Nurses, Social Workers and Occupational Therapists, Sharon is keen to highlight the difference between the Community specialist care services St Luke’s already provide, and the new team : “The Crisis Team and our existing Community Team will work closely together and the crisis team nurses and health care assistants will deliver hands on care and administer medication around the clock. We also offer a “meet and greet service”, to ensure that patients have support when they are discharged from the hospice or hospital, to settle them in at home and we hope that this will reduce delay in a patient being able to return home”.
The Crisis Team will cover a vast area to deliver this specialist care from Plymouth to Dartmoor and Tavistock; across to the South Hams and Kingsbridge.
The success of the new service very much depends on partnership working with other local Health Care Professionals and providers as Sharon explains: “We will be working alongside District Nurses, GPs and other charities like Marie Curie. We certainly do not want to take over, but support and provide an intensive level of specialist care to bring symptoms under control or until alternative care provisions are put in place”.
The service is now operational, running from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. The service will be operational, 24 hours a day, from January 2015. Access to the service is by referral only through your GP, District Nurse or other relevant health care professionals.