Reflective gardens and ‘memory trees’ installed at hospitals in the North Midlands to mark the death of colleagues and loved ones during COVID.
The tree contains the names of those who have died in the past year.
The reflective gardens will offer staff at Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, and County Hospital in Stafford, a place to spend their breaks in quiet contemplation. Five staff members have passed away due to COVID-19 and their names have been engraved on the commemorative trees.
The trees have been created by the University Hospitals of North Midlands, NHS Trust (UHNM).
Online entertainment apps
The charity is also funding free online entertainment and media services for patients via the SPARK media platform. Services include TV, radio, film, games, newspapers, magazines and access to the NHS videos and therapy apps. It will be available on phones and tablets when the platform goes live.
Lisa Thomson, director of communications and charity at UHNM, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been continually stressful every day for more than a year, for patients, their families and our staff. UHNM’s charity has been well-supported through the goodwill of the public, so we wanted to use some funds to help make things a little easier for everyone who stays, visits or works here. The memory trees in the reflective gardens will hopefully bring some comfort to staff as they remember colleagues and loved ones.”
She added: “We know that during the pandemic, patients have suffered greatly from having little or no contact with their families and friends, so being able to speak to them via video calls is a boost to morale,” said Thomson. “By providing free WiFi and now with new media services being made available, these entertainment options can help pass the time in hospital and aid patient recovery.”
WIFI SPARK is a leading provider of commercial WiFi and media working with over 300 hospitals across more than 80 NHS Trusts and health boards.
Dean Moody, chief commercial officer at WiFi SPARK, said: “Charities are an invaluable part of NHS trusts, and UHNM’s is providing some great ideas for patients and staff. The past year has been incredibly difficult for many people, so any services that aid patient recovery or make staff working conditions a bit easier have to be welcomed. We are pleased to be part of that philosophy at UHNM.”
Investing in its people
Becoming one of a tiny number of businesses nationally to secure IiP Platinum status at the first time of assessment, Ariya Neuro Care is proud of its role in delivering outstanding care to ABI service users while also helping to raise the bar for health and social care workers. NR Times meets the company keen to push the boundaries of excellence
For most businesses, the thought of being assessed by independent regulators during the COVID-19 pandemic would be something that would fill them with dread – but for Ariya Neuro Care, it was something they actively sought.
And their confidence in their offering has proved to be entirely correct, with Ariya securing the Platinum award from Investors in People (IiP) at the very first time of assessment – becoming one of a handful of companies from any sector to secure such a feat.
The company, founded six years ago, operates a supported living service for ABI service users across South Yorkshire with two residential transitional services in Rotherham and Barnsley. Its community programme and seven-bed Clifton Court site in Rotherham were both rated Outstanding by CQC at the first time of assessment – but with its site in Barnsley opening in early March 2020, no inspection has been possible due to the ongoing impact and restrictions of COVID-19.
However, keen to demonstrate its unfaltering commitment to the highest standards for service users and their families, which continued despite the unprecedented challenges brought by the pandemic, Ariya invited scrutiny from IiP to independently confirm the quality of their service.
Lucy Fallon and Paul Constable, who founded Ariya after lengthy careers working in health and social care, believe their award is testament to the outstanding work of their team, whose development they continue to invest in.
“We weren’t being inspected by the CQC during the pandemic so we thought it would be good to get an external benchmark and see things we could improve on, as well as to celebrate the work of our staff,” says Lucy.
“We were absolutely committed to maintaining and improving our quality and standards, we didn’t just want to firefight. We felt if we dropped the standards during lockdown, we’d have to work even harder afterwards to pick it up.
“When we were being assessed, we were asked what we think our difference is. Anyone can say they are a good company to work for, but we really value our staff as professional people and support them as such.
“Health and social care is often undervalued but these people are behind the delivery of really amazing services and they deserve to be invested in and not to be treated as a commodity, or seen as just a number. Often, these people don’t get the respect they deserve, but health and social care is very skilled work.
“We have a really strong emphasis on our people and the development of our team, and that is what we believe has made the difference. As care providers, we all have a role to play in raising the bar.”
With an 80-strong team working across South Yorkshire both in the community and in its two residential centres, Ariya’s service sees senior clinicians working with a team of social care workers to ensure its ABI service users are supported in their ongoing rehabilitation.
For Lucy, who was inspired to establish Ariya with husband Paul after wanting more freedom from the restrictions of working in corporate care, the creation of a strong and committed team was fundamental from the start.
“We wanted to focus our energy into providing local bespoke services, starting in supported living services and then moving into transitional community rehabilitation, as there was a real need for those kind of services – and the quality of your team is absolutely vital in delivering that,” says Lucy.
“Paul and I have both worked in national jobs in corporates and we recognise the importance of valuing your team and creating the right ethos. From the start, we’ve made sure people have enough off-rota time, a lot of services are too under-resourced to do that, but we want our team to be able to do their jobs.
“The danger in health and social care is that because we talk a lot about services being under-resourced, then it’s seen as being OK to be a bit mediocre – but that shouldn’t be the case, and if you look after your people, it is absolutely possible to have an exceptional team.”
The willingness of the Ariya team to go the extra mile was highlighted during the pandemic, with everyone pulling together to deliver services as routinely as possible, as well as ensuring its new transitional rehabilitation service in Barnsley could open its doors to new clients.
“We were blessed with the timing that the building work in Barnsley was complete, it was just some of the cosmetic work like the tarmac not being entirely finished, so we could support the neuro wards in the hospitals who needed placements,” says Lucy.
“We went very quickly into lockdown after opening, and also has some of the families in our bubble so we could be sure their loved ones were as settled as possible. Our staff were very socially sensible and we were able to deliver consistency, which was down to their dedication and the sacrifices they made.
“But self-isolation did of course cause some pressure points – I remember at one point we suddenly had 22 shifts to cover, but within a couple of hours we had a plan in place to cover it. We all did our bit, we were all willing to muck in, and Paul and I did shifts along the way.
“I think because we’ve always ensured our staff weren’t doing ridiculous hours in the first place, they weren’t already on their knees when the pandemic hit, which is the situation a lot of providers faced.
“I do think we all have a role to play in raising the bar in health and social care and how staff are regarded as professionals and I’m really pleased our role in doing this has been recognised.”
Anchor Point – increasing support for families affected by ABI
A national initiative has been launched to help increase the support, advice and resources for families affected by acquired brain injury (ABI).
Anchor Point has been created to raise awareness of the needs of families of people with a brain injury, identify their unmet needs and deliver research, information and education required to make a positive difference.
The Special Interest Group (SIG) unites professionals working in healthcare and academia across the country and has ambitious long-term plans about how to change the reality for the family support network whose lives are blown apart in the wake of a brain injury to their loved one.
Among the initiatives Anchor Point hopes to introduce are the creation of a resource of patient stories to help and inspire others, a buddy mentoring scheme for families to give peer to peer support, and the creation of an education and resource pack to collate all of the resources a family affected by ABI may need.
Anchor Point has been created by Dr Charlotte (Charlie) Whiffin, an adult nurse and senior lecturer at the University of Derby, after realising the significant gap in provision.
“I did my PhD ten years ago and looked at the family experience of head injury and realised that nothing had really changed since then. There is some very good work being done where the primary concern is the injured person, but there is a need for something where the primary interest is the family,” Dr Whiffin tells NR Times.
“It’s a really impossible situation for family members, and nothing is truly going to prepare them for their loved one being discharged from hospital, but at the minute it feels like an abyss for many of these families – it doesn’t have to be this hard. There needs to be more scaffolding around them, so instead of the freefall down the hole, there is a ladder for them to get back up.
“Over the past ten years an increasing number of studies have looked at how family members are affected by the impact of acquired brain injury and their crucial role in neurorehabilitation and long-term support. It is now well recognised that the experience of family members can be complex and enduring.
“Brain injury has a far-reaching impact on the family. The injury can be a life-long condition and for family members to provide the best possible care and support, they need access to accurate information. It is apparent that as health and social care professionals, we need to work together to pool our knowledge and experiences and improve the support available to families.”
Anchor Point is aiming to bring about change through its working groups focusing on family RIPPLES – resources, information, people, policy, life, education and support – which will bring together professionals to look at the improvements that need to be made.
“We will look around the country and find where things are being done really well, we will map the pockets of excellent practice and want to work really closely with organisations to replicate that,” says Dr Whiffin.
“We plan to grow organically and our aims will evolve every year in terms of what more we feel is needed. I’d love to create a resource to collate patient stories which cover the different types of brain injury and the different stages – the impact at one month will be very different to two years.
“It’s also love to have a mentoring scheme to create support between families, where you can have a safe space to express how you feel to someone else who understands without judgement.
While there may be other people outside of the family in the normal reliable support network, the impact of brain injury means that often doesn’t work anymore, so peer to peer support is very important.
“Our ambitions for this are really big but are staggered across a number of years. The idea originated in Derby but we now have a national focus and would love to look internationally at some point – there is very good practice in Australia and America, which is the long-term goal, and there is particularly scope for international collaboration on research.
“But for now, we are focusing our efforts here and hope to make a difference to the lives of families affected by ABI.”
Anchor Point is being supported by UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum, which is also hosting its website.
“We are delighted to work with Anchor Point to provide a much-needed service to families affected by brain injury – we know just how vital a role families can play in the on-going support and care of individuals with an acquired brain injury,” says Chloe Hayward, executive director of UKABIF.
“People can join Anchor Point via our website. Through active participation of family members and health care professionals it will create a space where people with different knowledge and experiences can connect to work together to research, contribute, inform and improve service provision.”
Thousands back campaign to increase SLT provision
The Government has responded to a petition signed by thousands of people calling for greater access to speech and language therapy (SLT), saying it is “supporting the restoration” of such vital support for those in need.
More than 13,000 people have backed the campaign to increase funding to SLT so it can be made more available to people who depend on such therapy for support with eating, drinking and communication.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the lack of SLT resource impact significantly on people across the country, with the reality laid bare in a report from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
The #BuildBackBetterSLT research showed that over half of those living with neurological conditions who could not access speech and language therapy (SLT) during COVID-19 lockdown saw their mental health, social and home lives worsen as a result.
Between March and June 2020, 41 per cent did not receive any SLT, with a further 32 per cent no longer having their therapy in-person. Almost half, at 48 per cent, received less therapy than prior to the pandemic.
As a result of this, 40 per cent of people felt their communication or swallowing got worse during the period.
The petition called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the report and to ensure those who had missed out for so long on much-needed resource could resume at the earliest opportunity.
In a response to the petition, the Government said it “recognises the importance of meeting the needs of those with communication issues and eating and drinking challenges; and ensuring that recovery addresses these problems” and pointed to the additional £1 billion funding it is providing to the NHS in 2021-22 to reduce waiting times.
It hailed the RCSLT report as providing “important information that the wider NHS can consider and utilise, alongside other sources of evidence, to help improve support for people with communication and swallowing needs”.
In a statement, it added that it is undertaking the biggest nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professional recruitment drive in decades, which includes recruitment of speech and language therapists. In 2020 there were 620 acceptances to speech and language therapy programmes in England, an increase of 28 per cent on 2019, said the Government.
RCSLT chief executive, Kamini Gadhok, urged people to continue to sign the petition and highlight the need for urgent action.
“As our Build Back Better report has shown, too many people have been unable to access the speech and language therapy they need throughout the pandemic and during lockdown. Inevitably, this has impacted negatively on many different areas of their lives, including their mental health,” she said.
“We want people to get the support they need to enable them to live their lives as fully as possible, which is why we’re urging the public to add their signatures to the petition and encourage their friends, family and colleagues to follow suit.
“Together, we can make a difference to people with communication and swallowing needs.”
To sign the petition, visit here
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