Hospice helpline receives 6,000 calls in nine months

15 April 2011
Healthcare professionals are among the callers who have contacted a groundbreaking palliative care advice line since it was launched by a Suffolk hospice nine months ago.

St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich set up the OneCall phone line in July 2010, allowing medical professionals, social workers and members of the public in East Suffolk to get advice from senior registered nurses. 

The response to the 24-hour line – the first of its kind in East Anglia - has exceeded the expectations of its creators.

An average of 660 calls have been received each month – an increase of around 50 per cent on the number of people contacting the Hospice for advice and support by phone.

Director of Patient Services Verity Jolly (pictured above, left, with SRN April Richardson, centre, and St Elizabeth Chief Executive Jane Petit) who helped launched the advice line, described the service as trailblazing. She said: “We take calls from health professionals who may want advice on which pain relief to administer or from care home staff who might just need reassurance or specialist support. 

“The need for round-the-clock palliative care advice has been recognised nationally, and we hope that many other providers will start offering advice lines like OneCall. So we are really leading the way on this.”

The number of people referring themselves to the hospice has also increased as a result of advice given from OneCall.

Mrs Jolly added: “Before OneCall was set up, the Hospice was taking about 400 calls a month; now we receive an average of 660 calls a month. We wanted to reach out to people who weren’t already known to us and ensure there was someone there for them to speak to when they needed it most.”

Senior Registered Nurse April Richardson, who works on OneCall, said it was important for the Hospice to be able to help healthcare professionals. She said: “We are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we often get calls from care home staff in the middle of the night who just need a friendly bit of advice or support. Through OneCall we are able to reach more people as we are one of the only advice lines in the country also open to the general public.”

She added: “People can be really distressed when they phone so the calls can be very emotional, but we are here to comfort them and help as much as we can.  We can also give specific specialist palliative care clinical advice for the patient concerned.”

St Elizabeth Hospice costs £6 million a year to run. As a result, it relies heavily on the support of the local community with more than three quarters of its income generated by the public through fundraising, the lottery, Hospice shops and donations.

Patients, relatives, carers, GPs, nurses, health and social care workers and other medical professionals in East Suffolk can call St Elizabeth Hospice OneCall on 0800 567 0111 for advice on palliative care. 

St Elizabeth Hospice also recently been awarded a 12 month contract to provide an out of hours specialist palliative care telephone advice line from April 2011 in Waveney and Great Yarmouth for health professionals and their patients.

The number for the new service in Waveney and Great Yarmouth is 0800 56 70 909. Calls are free from a BT landline.

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