Adapting quickly so we can be there when it matters

Responding to COVID-19: voices from our membership

Sue Ryder supports people with neurological conditions, terminal illness or bereavement. The charity’s neurological care centres across the UK offer a range of residential and community based neurological services. This includes specialist neurological rehabilitation and support tailored to the individual needs of people with a range of neurological conditions. Director of Neurological Services and Neurological Alliance Trustee, Pamela Mackenzie, blogs about how the organisation has adapted quickly to the pandemic and is supporting the NHS in the management of the crisis.

Without the right rehabilitation at the right time, people who have suffered a stroke or acquired brain injury may never get to return home or remain highly dependent. Our specialist inter-disciplinary team consists of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, neuro-psychologists, nurses and rehab assistants who use goal-orientated therapy programmes to support clients to maintain or build strength and develop skills they need for daily living to enable them to return home or to more independent living.

Our neurological rehabilitation units play an important part in the fight against COVID-19 by admitting patients from hospital who need access to specialist therapy, freeing up much-needed acute hospital beds. At the start of the pandemic, there was a high level of concern around the loss of neurological rehabilitation beds, with therapists in community services being redeployed. To ensure those who needed this specialist care could still access it, Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry was approached by their Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at the end of March to increase their capacity of neurological rehabilitation beds.

The Chantry responded swiftly to this request by adapting our current rehab model in order to be able to admit people for a shorter length of stay, and provide a level of intense rehab after which they could be discharged home safely. We have reorganised therapy space and equipment to keep residents and rehab clients safe, with residents having therapy in their rooms and in lower numbers in the dedicated gym, while practising safe social distancing.

It has been a challenge, but one from which we have learned. We have been working more collaboratively with the CCG and social workers, with twice-weekly calls to discuss referrals and discharge planning. Meetings with consultants, inter-disciplinary teams and families are all held via secure video conferencing, which the Sue Ryder IT team set up for us.

Another innovation we have rolled out across our centres is the use of tablets for clients to keep in touch with family and friends. This ability to maintain social connections has helped to reduce their loneliness, at a time when strict shielding guidance prevents visits to our centres. We have also taken the opportunity to use the tablets to update loved ones, lowering the anxiety some families are feeling.

As well as better outcomes for patients, we are looking forward to exploring opportunities to build on these new ways of collaborative and smarter working with our partners once the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Visit the Sue Ryder website.