Community response during COVID-19

Tammy Etherington, community matron support nurse for Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) tells us about the vital work community volunteers have been coordinating during COVID-19.
Tammy runs the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) health and wellbeing hub in Perranaworthal. The hub is a joint initiative which involves CFT, volunteers and local GP surgeries to offer weekly support to some of the area’s elderly and most vulnerable people. Sadly the COVID-19 outbreak meant the group had to stop meeting in person.

Tammy says “For many people the hub is a lifeline, we hold all sorts of activities and help members learn new skills, we also provide health advice and organise assistance at home if required. It gives the elderly and vulnerable a reason to leave the house each week, to meet with friends and gives us as professionals an insight in to who we need to look out for in the community.”

We hold all sorts of activities and help members learn new skills, we also provide health advice and organise assistance at home if required.

When the group’s meeting had to close, lead volunteers worked hard to make sure they kept in touch with members and continued to connect with them weekly.

Tammy tells us: “Our volunteers have worked tirelessly with community teams to ensure elderly and vulnerable people don’t feel alone and their needs are being met. They have organised regular check in phone calls, garden visits, dropped care packages on doorsteps and organised fun activities like quizzes to keep people occupied.”

It was on a check in call, when one of the hub’s volunteers noticed an elderly member was not themselves. They had woken up feeling unwell and their speech was slurring. The volunteer was able to alert a community matron who paid a visit and identified in the individual’s notes that they had suffered from low magnesium in the past. She organised an urgent blood test with the GP, which showed low magnesium levels and medication was prescribed quickly. If it hadn’t been for the volunteer connecting with the person and swiftly recognising something was wrong things could have turned out very differently.

Tammy says, “I am so proud of our team’s resilience in adapting the hub to ensure it could continue to support our members during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked along-side our volunteers to be able to intervene and provide care quickly if required, where possible treating people in their own homes.”

I am so proud of our team’s resilience in adapting the Hub to ensure it could continue to support our members during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tammy adds, “Something positive that has come from the pandemic has been improved ways of working between health and council services. From virtual multi-disciplinary-team meetings, to a new centralised referral process. Integration has continued to help provide the best care for people at this challenging time.”

As the COVID-19 lockdown is cautiously lifted in Cornwall, Tammy can see the knock-on effect isolation has had on the elderly and vulnerable in her community; “Fear and loneliness has been a big issue over the past few months, particularly for elderly, frail people shielding alone. There have been a lot of cases of people persevering with health symptoms that really need checking because there is worry about attending surgeries or professionals entering homes to help. We want to reassure people they are safe to get in touch with us and call for help if they need it.”

I can’t wait to have the hub meetings up and running again as soon as it’s safe, I think we will appreciate it more than ever before.

Tammy is looking forward to when the hub can re-open its doors. “I can’t wait to have the hub meetings up and running again as soon as it’s safe, I think we will appreciate it more than ever before. I want to say a particular thank you to Sue Sutherland Clark, the hub’s chair, and Mary Jory, the hub’s secretary, for their continuous hard work keeping people connected and well at home during this difficult time. They are amazing ladies.”

Added on 02/07/2020, in Case Studies - Case studies