Vicky Bartlett, Rowcroft’s deputy director of patient care and professional lead, on how the hospice is putting safety at the heart of its patient care through the second wave of Covid-19

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Keeping patients, families and all our care teams safe is fundamental to Rowcroft Hospice’s philosophy of care.

As we turn to face this second wave of Covid-19, we are doing everything we possibly can to prioritise safety and to protect our people from the perils of this invisible enemy.

This autumn, as Covid cases throughout the UK and South West continue to climb, Rowcroft Hospice is experiencing an escalating demand for its care.

Over recent months, the charity’s Hospice at Home service – which provides end-of-life care to people in their own homes across 300 square miles of South Devon - has been flooded by a surge in demand.

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Referrals to Rowcroft’s community team – which offers services encompassing clinical nurse specialists, specialist palliative care doctors, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and bereavement support – are also steadily rising to extremely high levels.

This rise in demand, along with the extreme challenges of Covid which have added a whole new layer of complexity to what is already a very complex type of care, are intensifying pressure and increasing challenges for Rowcroft’s care teams in keeping everyone safe.

While caring for almost 2,500 local people each year, Rowcroft has taken numerous steps to safeguard its patients, families, staff and volunteers.

Upholding patient safety and ensuring the highest standards of end-of-life patient care have always been at the heart of Rowcroft’s policies and procedures.

We have so many measures in place to keep everyone safe on the frontline of care. And we feel we are even more prepared now than we were when we faced Covid for the first time back in March.

For this second wave, we already have rigorous safety procedures in place: we have well-established practices with regard to cleaning and infection control; our care teams are accustomed to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE); our patients and families are familiar with hand sanitising, social distancing and wearing face coverings when required to; and we are well-practised at carrying out patient consultations remotely via video link where possible, or by telephone, in order to minimise risk to patients and families.

Rowcroft puts people’s choices at the very centre of their end-of-life care, encouraging patients to be actively involved in every decision about the type of care they receive, believing this to be a prerequisite for dignified, sensitive, expert care.

Rowcroft care teams help patients to enhance their knowledge about safety in health care, to take control of their care choices, to ask questions, to communicate, to raise concerns and to provide feedback.

All of this goes such a long way in helping Rowcroft deliver the most effective and safest type of care to their patients.

For our clinical teams, we have always worked by the mantra that in order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself - and Covid has once again proved this to be the case.

We are working to protect the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of our health workers, in order to keep our patients and their families safe.

Patient safety cannot exist without health worker safety; the two go hand-in-hand.

We know that we cannot rest on our laurels when it comes to patient safety. Health advice and guidance is exceptionally fast-moving, particularly where Covid is concerned, and we are always looking for new ways to improve our practice in line with cutting edge research.

We know we must remain open to change, and we must continue to adapt, evolve and embrace new practices.

We must continue to speak up if we spot concerns, and we must learn and develop.

By doing so, we can provide the safest and very best experience of care for our patients and families, and at the same time, we can keep our health workers safe too. We at Rowcroft are united in our resolve to do this.