Lockdown one year on: Hospice continues to care for people in Horsham, Crawley and Mid Sussex despite challenges

To mark one year since lockdown began a nurse at St Catherine’s Hospice has shared what the charity has learnt during the pandemic.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 10:45 am

Linda Henson is an advanced nurse practitioner at the hospice, which helps people in Horsham, Crawley and Mid Sussex, who works in the community supporting local families.

She has shared the following update about how the charity is getting on after a year in lockdown.

Linda said: “I’ve just finished another long shift, so I thought it would be nice to take some time out and update you, our lovely supporters on how life has been supporting patients under St Catherine’s care in the community all around us.

Advanced nurse practitioner Linda Henson. Photo: Toby Phillips

“The reality is it’s been hard - very hard. I don’t think I need to tell you about how difficult the daily challenges have been for the NHS and it’s no different for us at St Catherine’s.

“We’ve had to learn new technology to support new ways of working with our colleagues, including some who are shielding, adapt to a new phone system, and manage concerns about taking COVID to our families’ and our own safety. We often worry about how long this is going to go on for, and how our resilience will cope with it all.

“We always want to do our very best for our community

“So we also worry about whether we’re providing the same level of care for people who need us within all the COVID restrictions. But if you think things have felt bad for us during the pandemic, take a moment and think how terrifying and lonely it is for our patients.

“They’re often at home as they’re frail and elderly, their families are shielding to keep them safe, and many of them don’t have any human contact. They’re worried about going out and some of them are even frightened of us coming into their homes dressed in PPE.

“We’re finding our phone calls to people are becoming much longer because for some people we’re the first person they’ve heard from in quite some time, and they’re just so glad to hear a human voice.

“But despite these challenges, we’re local people’s link to support and a link to their families for support. And that’s really important.

“It’s thanks to you that we’re on the end of a phone and out there supporting people in our community when it’s needed most. It’s thanks to you someone has some human interaction, and someone to tell them everything will be alright.

“It’s a wonderful thing knowing so many of you continue to have our backs through these really challenging times

“We all know how much charities have suffered, and we need your support more than ever.

“We need you to keep the fires burning.

“We need you to help keep bringing that money in so that we continue with our vital services and make sure local people don’t feel alone and frightened when facing terminal illness.

“COVID has brought difficulties for everyone, and there have been difficult times for the patients and families we support too, but there are many great stories of the times we’ve made a difference thanks to people like you who support us.

“There was the lady who was discharged from hospital as she wanted to die at home. Her family really struggled to think how they were going to look after her at home, but with help from our Practical Care Team organising some night sits, the lady was able to stay there. She died a week later, much to the family’s happiness because they felt they’d achieved her last wish.

“Often, just a few reassuring words on the phone from one of our nurses will help to destress the anxiety and worry a family member is feeling, or give a mum, who is living with terminal illness, the strength to carry on homeschooling.

“This is the real difference you make.

“At various points during this pandemic, each of us on the team have felt we’re not providing a good enough service or that we’re failing in some way. But we’re not

“We’ve all had to change our aspirations and our expectations of care. Our patients have also had to adapt, knowing that it’s likely they’ll get a phone or video call now instead of a visit.

“We’ve learnt so much from COVID. We’ve learnt that no nurse, doctor, or team can work on their own, and we’ve moved a long way in terms of working as an integrated team at the hospice. We also work closely with our District Nursing colleagues - they are our eyes and ears. On top of that, we work with Primary Care Network teams, made up of lots of different healthcare colleagues, across our entire area. We also continue to support care homes with advice.

“We have learned to be more considerate, more tolerant, and more kind to each other because through all this, everybody is trying their best. We’re more thoughtful and reflective about our work supporting our community, but above all, we’ve learned that we’re human too. We need to know our own limitations and to know when enough is enough. If we seek help, we don’t need to be guilty about that or feel that we failed in any way. If COVID has shown us anything, it’s that we’re all vulnerable and we can only do our best, our very best – And that’s what we’ve been doing.

“To all our hospice supporters, I want to give you a very warm thank you

“Because without you none of this work would be able to go on. I can’t tell you how much we value your support, and I ask you to continue to support us, because COVID will pass and we will come out of this.

“My hope is we will come out of it stronger and we will all live life more fully, and certainly more appreciated.”

To find out more about the work of St Catherine’s visit www.stch.org.uk or to make a donation to support your local hospice visit: www.stch.org.uk/donate or call 01293 447361.