There With You: Saint Francis Hospice launches an urgent appeal

Staff nurse Emma, with a patient. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Staff nurse Emma, with a patient. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

Saint Francis Hospice, which provides essential support for residents affected by life-limiting illnesses, is launching an urgent appeal to help it stay afloat through the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff nurse, Jo Noguera. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Staff nurse, Jo Noguera. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

Like many hospices and hospitals around the country, Saint Francis is being faced with shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), staff shortages and a lack of testing for the disease.

The charity relies heavily on local people to fundraise to pay for its care service. Only receiving 23 per cent of funding from the NHS, it has to raise £8.5million a year,

The hospice ward remains fully functional but day care and therapy services at Pemberton Place have been closed in line with government guidance.

“It has been an incredibly challenging time but we are working tirelessly to ensure we are well prepared and measures are in place to protect our patients and visitors, staff and volunteers.” said Tes Smith, director of care and quality.

Saint Francis Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower.

Saint Francis Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower. - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

The hospice is struggling to get the hygiene equipment it needs to protect its staff from Covid-19.

“We are campaigning nationally to obtain the supplies and have launched an online appeal for local donations and we are in desperate need of elbow gloves, gowns, scrubs, sanitiser and FF3 masks and shields,” said Tes.

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Staff have not been able to access testing for the disease but “going forward we do so hope our staff will be able to access the testing programme the government announced on March 28”, she added.

“It is crucial that we can access this to keep our workforce delivering care and support to the local community who need us.

“Without the testing, we will struggle to ensure our workforce is safe and it may mean many staff and volunteers will have to isolate without knowing if they definitely have the virus.

“We know many patients and families depend on our support in the community and we are reaching out by telephone wherever possible - our nursing and therapy teams are maintaining vital links this way.”

The specialist care and support provided to local people affected by any life-limiting illness includes those with cancer, motor neurone disease, heart failure, lung diseases, and sometimes with the additional diagnosis of dementia.

Tes said: “While we provide a range of services at the hospice, 85pc of our care is delivered in peoples’ own homes and care homes and in hospital. We also provide a number of services to support families and carers and those important to the individual.”

Services include all aspects of a patient’s wellbeing – physical, emotional, financial, spiritual and practical.

With many healthcare services already stretched before the virus crisis, the hospice provides crucial care without people having to navigate complex teams and services in the wider healthcare and NHS sector.

Nurse specialists have had to adjust very quickly to using the telephone to support complex patients, advise GPs and district nurses about specific patient needs and support those NHS staff who are also under a lot of pressure at this time.

Ward manager Jo Noguera said: “We are all anxious and we are facing the unknown.

“We are still coming to work and providing the very best care but we have pulled together to support each other as a team and recognise this isn’t easy for any of us.

“It has never been more imperative that we avoid people going to hospital due to their symptoms and we are working very hard to ensure people continue to be admitted to our hospice ward and supported by our community services teams.”

The hospice is calling on the community to donate to its urgent appeal to support nurses helping residents in Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Brentwood, Redbridge and West Essex.

CEO Pam Court paid tribute to staff and volunteers: “I am so in awe and immensely proud as to how everyone has pulled together in this rapidly changing time to ensure we keep services running, albeit in different ways.”

To donate, please visit the website, and to help with PPE please get in touch via - marked for the attention of Tes Smith.

The hospice’s OrangeLine telephone service for people who are isolated and lonely and its bereavement service, also continues to reach people by phone at this difficult time.