Success of care teams is ‘testament to their hard work’ in region

Marie Curie @ Northumbria modern matron Michele McKidd.
Marie Curie @ Northumbria modern matron Michele McKidd.

The number of patients with potentially life-limiting conditions who are being cared for by specialist teams at a group of hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside has more than doubled, thanks to a new partnership.

Marie Curie @ Northumbria, which launched early in 2015, is jointly funded by the charity Marie Curie and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

It aims to deliver high quality palliative and end of life care and support. The Hospital Palliative Care Liaison Teams are made up of specialist nurses and palliative medicine consultants.

The number of patients seen by these teams across general wards in Wansbeck General Hospital, North Tyneside General Hospital and more recently the new specialist emergency care hospital The Northumbria near Cramlington has more than doubled to 498 patients in July 2015 compared to 169 the previous year.

Modern matron Michele McKidd, for Marie Curie @ Northumbria, said: “The increase in the patients we are seeing across our wards is a testament to the hard work of the expanded teams.

“As the teams grow, they are able to work more proactively in supporting patients across the wards. Offering this care and support to patients who have life-limiting conditions or who are nearing the end of their lives and their families is making our care more responsive to their needs.”

A unique part of the work of the teams is that they can accompany a patient home in the first 24 hours after being discharged from hospital to ensure a smooth transfer of care to community teams who are working with patients and their families.

“This is an added crucial benefit of the teams for patients and their families as the first 24 hours when a patient returns home from hospital can be a vulnerable time,” added Ms McKidd.

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their families when facing potentially life-limiting illnesses. This is done by providing expert care, symptom control and support.

It also offers support for patients having on-going treatment.

Four new palliative care nurses have been recruited to the teams across the three hospitals since the beginning of the partnership, with another three to come on board in the New Year.

Marie Curie @ Northumbria is using modern technology to inform the specialist teams in real time when a patient who is known to them is being admitted to hospital.

Electronic alerts come via email to the nurses’ phones to tell them a patient known to palliative care has come to hospital, which enables the nurses and consultants to go and meet the patient and provide specialist support no matter what ward they are in at that time.

As with many communities across the UK, the number of older people is growing, so there will be a greater number of people with long-term health conditions and the emphasis of this service is to meet these complex needs and deliver a better level of care.

Audrey Rowe, regional nursing service manager for Marie Curie, said: “We’re really pleased that this fantastic partnership, bringing together innovation from both the voluntary sector and NHS, is helping local people living with a terminal illness to have access to and support from the services that they need.

“As the UK’s leading charity caring for people with terminal illness, we know the importance of working in partnership with local NHS trusts to deliver the right care at the right time, in the right place.”

Phase two of Marie Curie @ Northumbria will enable the expansion of the community palliative care teams, which will aim to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital admissions for patients with these needs as it can be traumatic for them and their families.

It will support them to be treated and cared for at a setting of choice in the community or at home.

Macmillan Cancer Support also helps to deliver the community aspect of the service.