North East Connected

Supporting the NHS and adapting to new challenges

Continuing the series of monthly updates from the Chief Executive of Butterwick Hospice Care, Debbie Jones

AS the coronavirus pandemic continues, we are doing our best at Butterwick Hospice Care to support the vital work being carried out by the NHS.

We have made 12 beds available to the NHS for end of life care and have started to receive patients. The aim is to play our part in easing the burden on our local hospitals, and Covid-19 patients are inevitably among those coming to us.

These are obviously hugely challenging times for all of us, and we are having to adapt to new working conditions and procedures, but I am so proud of the Butterwick staff for the way they are responding.

For example, our Family Support team members, at Stockton and Bishop Auckland, have had to alter the way they operate. They are trained to provide face to face support, but those bereavement services are now being provided remotely.

That represents a big change because they are used to close, personal relationships where they can take factors like body language into consideration. However, I’m delighted by the way they have adapted and are working through their caseload to ensure that crucial level of support is still provided online or by telephone.

A proportion of our administration and support staff have had to be furloughed, and that means those still working are having to pick up all sorts of additional tasks. Again, I’m proud to say that everyone is mucking in without a single complaint to help us keep functioning.

As I’ve said before, I’m blessed with a fantastic team and they are rising to the challenge every day.

ONE of the positives to have come out of this crisis is the way community spirit has come to the fore.

There are so many acts of kindness to be seen, and I’ve been really touched by the support we’ve had from businesses and other well-wishers.

Biscuits and cakes have arrived at our door, as well as full meals for the staff, which has been lovely. We have also had donations of personal protection equipment, including visors and hand sanitiser, from local businesses and we are also very grateful for that too.

But while we fully appreciate the value of that kind of non-monetary support, the need for financial donations remains the urgent priority. The emergency appeal we launched at the start of April has raised around £15,000 so far – and I want to thank every single individual and organisation that has made a contribution.

However, it has to be seen in the context of a shortfall in our normal revenues of around £100,000 over that period. We still have staff to pay, and all the usual bills, so please keep your donations coming in.

FINALLY, I wanted to acknowledge the impact the pandemic is having on so many everyday lives behind closed doors.

My own son James, who is 21, is classed as vulnerable to coronavirus because he suffered lung damage from a childhood illness that affected his immune system.

James normally lives with me, but because I pose a risk to him from my role working in the hospice. He has, therefore, had to move in with his dad, who has a new family, including three children under 13.

As you can imagine, that represents a big change for him, and for me too because I’m having to get used to coming home to an empty house after work.

Meanwhile, my dad is in his 70s, and suffered a heart attack last year, so he is in isolation. I do his shopping for him and, when I deliver it, he stands on the step and I stand at the gate while we have a chat.

It just makes me appreciate the kind of challenges millions of people are going through and why that community spirit, and those acts of kindness, are so important.

If we can just find some time for each other, and help where we can, it makes such a difference.

Thank you for all your support – and stay safe.

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