11/05/2020 | Press releases

Returning to work to keep families updated

A dedicated team of retired critical care nurses have returned to East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) to play a vital role in the fight against coronavirus by keeping families updated about loved ones who are receiving treatment for the illness.

Family Liaison Services have been set up at both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals by former staff who all wanted to do something to help during the pandemic but were unable to return to the wards due to their health or other reasons.

Instead, they are providing a vital link between families and patients receiving treatment on the Critical Care Unit (CCU), keeping them informed daily of progress, relaying messages, answering questions and arranging translation services where necessary.

As well as making sure relatives receive regular updates and reassurance, the team is freeing up clinical colleagues – who would usually contact families – to focus on delivering the best possible care.

In Ipswich, the service is being provided by retired nurses Heather Blaylock, Claire Calder, Cathy Cousins, Pauline Entwistle, Richard Goodrum, Anne Wharnsby and Alison Wright, who are all working as volunteers. They have been joined by Jess Theobold and Debbie Mathews, who are two ex-CCU nurses who have other work commitments, as well as redeployed nurses Jeanne De Chi-Bryan, Helen Kirby and Donna Matthews.

Claire Calder, who is one of the team in Ipswich, said: “When we saw the news coming from the hospitals in Italy, we got together to talk about what we could do to help and thought the liaison service would be really beneficial.

“It has been very well received by families, who really appreciate being given an update and the time to voice any concerns or ask questions. If the patient is well enough and it is appropriate to do so, we can even try and arrange for a nurse to hold the phone to their ear at their bedside so that they can hear their loved one’s voice.

“We are really pleased that we have been able to do something to support our friends and former colleagues who we worked alongside on the CCU for the vast majority of our careers.”

The Family Liaison Service runs seven days a week, and uses a password system to ensure patient confidentiality is not compromised.

Paul Carroll, critical care consultant at Ipswich Hospital, said: “We care for 18 to 20 COVID-19 patients at any one time, most of which will spend around 20 days on the unit. Keeping their families informed of their progress is vitally important, but can also be time-consuming so we are incredibly grateful to our former colleagues for returning to the hospital to help.

“The service they are providing has received some absolutely fantastic feedback and is truly appreciated by not just our patients and their families, but also everyone working in critical care.”

Elsje Rossouw, CCU matron at Colchester Hospital, said: “We currently have two nurses who have worked in critical care but cannot fulfil clinical duties at the moment working in our service, which is much appreciated by the families of our patients.

“It has been really great that colleagues with critical care experience are filling the roles, as they can use their knowledge to explain to the family what is happening in more detail, the progress their loved one is making and our plans for their next steps of treatment. We are grateful to them and pleased we are able to offer this service to help keep families up-to-date at what is a difficult time for them.”

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