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Overwhelmed and undervalued


Providing more choice for end-of-life care



An innovative partnership between a charity and a hospital trust is helping terminally ill patients to leave hospital and be cared for in their homes

I am the first modern matron for palliative and end-of-life care for Marie Curie at Northumbria – an innovative partnership established in 2015 between the Marie Curie charity and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The partnership brings together the strengths of Marie Curie, which provides nursing care and support to people living with terminal illness, and Northumbria Healthcare, with its expertise in delivering palliative care in hospitals and the community.
My role is to make sure good standards of care are delivered for patients in all settings in Northumberland and North Tyneside, giving them more choice about where they are cared for towards the end of their lives. This includes supporting them to go home from hospital and bringing care to their homes.
When a patient registered with palliative care comes to hospital, the nurses get an email alert to their phone so that the team can meet them and provide specialist support, no matter what ward they are in. Our palliative care hospital liaison team, staffed by Marie Curie nurses, senior nurses and palliative care clinical nurse specialists, liaises with hospital staff to support people to get home from hospital, and remain there. We can support patients throughout the process of discharge to settling them back in at home. We also assist with symptom control and emotional support to help improve patient and family quality of life. Many palliative care patients want to be at home, and our staff go above and beyond to make it happen wherever possible.
I also ensure teams have the right staff in the right place and the resources they need to carry out their roles, with patient choice always at the centre.
We also have palliative care teams in the community in North Tyneside and Northumberland, including a rapid response service in North Tyneside, for emergencies. The team is made up of Marie Curie nursing staff, palliative care clinical nurse specialists and an on-call palliative care consultant from North Tyneside General Hospital.
Although my role as modern matron isn’t patient facing, I work closely with patients and families, listening to feedback and using it to improve services. A key focus for me is to ensure the teams, both in the community and the hospitals, are joined up and working together. A big part of this is our weekly multi-disciplinary team meeting, where health professionals across disciplines come together to discuss and plan an individual’s care, whether in hospital or at home. This can be doctors, nurses, staff from palliative care units, and specialist staff in the community, hospital liaison nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
Training is an important part of my role, supporting staff to achieve the skills and knowledge they need. I also work closely with Marie Curie on recruitment of nursing staff and recently we expanded our nursing teams to reach more people.
I’ve been in the role for two years now and feel particularly proud that the number of patients that the partnership has cared for has more than doubled since it launched last year. It’s rewarding to be part of this. Services like this will become increasingly important as the number of older people increases, and the number of people with long-term health conditions.