When a call comes in from a GP or the ambulance service who have identified a patient that requires specialist care, but doesn’t necessarily need to go to hospital, Walsall Healthcare’s Rapid Response Team springs into action.
Colleagues are on hand within two hours to access the patient and identify what support is needed to help them to remain well at home and avoid a hospital admission.
Made up of GPs, Senior Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Social Workers and Mental Health professionals the teams are on standby to provide the care that’s required.
Kirsty Donaldson is a Senior Nurse within the Rapid Response Team and she was featured on ITV News earlier this week talking about the care that the rapid response team delivers and the impact COVID-19 has had on herself, her patients and many of the colleagues she works alongside.
“Most people don’t want to go into hospital unless they absolutely need to and our job is to do everything we can to keep patients out of hospital and at home where they prefer to be,” she said.
“A lot of the referrals we receive are for patients who are vulnerable and frail and are more at risk of getting hospital acquired infections or having a fall because they are not familiar with their surroundings.
“They generally have more than one health condition and also require lots of other intervention to enable them to stay at home. As a team we work together to identify what those needs are and put all the right care into place. It might be, for example, they need a Senior Nurse like me to go in and provide health care or a Physiotherapist to help keep them moving so they don’t get bed sores or maybe a Social Care Worker who can help them get washed every day and help with their meals.
“As a team we make sure whatever care they need is wrapped around them and we continue to support them until they are able to support themselves or require a lower level of intervention from other community teams. “
Since the outbreak of coronavirus the Rapid Response Team has seen a big increase in referrals. In April the team had 330 referrals which was an increase of 140 on March figures and was successful in keeping 82% of these referrals out of hospital.
Kirsty added: “Since Covid-19 began we have been busier than ever and the importance of keeping people in their own homes is even more important than ever.
“The way in which we are able to deliver the care has changed both from a physical perspective and an emotional one. We are having to risk assess every patient before we visit and wear the appropriate PPE in order to keep them safe as well as ourselves.
“Many of the people we visit are really lonely and we are often the only people they will see that day which is really hard for them and means we often are spending a little longer than normal with them to do the little extras like make them a cup of tea.
“We are also having to reassure families over the phone and that is really difficult. It’s not easy to talk about a sensitive issue over the phone and as a nurse I want to be able to give that extra support like a reassuring hug but that isn’t possible at the moment.”
As well as protecting her patients, Kirsty and many others like her, have families that they need to protect and as such have made difficult decisions to separate from their loved ones so they can continue to do their job. For Kirsty this has meant moving her daughter out of the family home and into her grandparents.
Kirsty added “She’s only eight and she’s been out of the family home for seven weeks now. It’s a sacrifice that I have had to make to ensure I can carry on working and I am doing everything I can to keep myself, my family and my patients safe.”