With a single call from a healthcare professional, people who urgently need specialist end of life care at home can access high-quality and seamlessly co-ordinated rapid response treatment thanks to St Luke’s Urgent Care Service.

The new service unites specialist nurses from Livewell Southwest, Marie Curie and what was formerly known as St Luke’s Crisis Team to provide better co-ordinated care for terminally ill patients during a time of change or at end of life.

The redesigned service makes it easier than ever for those needing our bespoke compassionate care to receive it quickly regardless of their location within St Luke’s catchment area. Importantly, the service also reduces unnecessary admissions to hospital.

The launch of the service saw us welcome ten Livewell Southwest employees – including administrative staff as well as nurses – who have formally transferred to our organisation, donning a new lilac-coloured uniform, and Marie Curie nurses seconded to the team, making 33 staff in total.

Working in partnership with Marie Curie means our urgent care will continue to reach across Plymouth and its surrounding areas from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.

Key improvements to the service include a simplified system to reduce paperwork while maintaining quality assurance and the ability to tailor our care more quickly to a patient’s changing needs.

Andrew Shaw, Head of Community Services at St Luke’s, said: “The service was initially launched as a pilot in February 2017. Many patients have benefitted but there is room for enhancement.

“We can now more easily determine where patients are with their condition – stable, unstable, deteriorating or dying – which means they benefit from the right care, at the right level, at their right time. This makes us more effective, enabling us to prioritise patients in most urgent need of our bespoke care, so our time, specialist knowledge and skills are being given when really needed.

“During a terminal illness a patient’s condition varies and their care needs change. Whereas they might require three visits a day for a while, at other times once daily is sufficient. This frees up our time to help more people while not compromising the quality of our care.

“We also follow up with patients when they’re discharged from hospital or our specialist unit at Turnchapel, and – in situations where people no longer require our care because their condition has improved – we work with them and other care providers to make sure they continue to get the appropriate support.

Service Manager Sharon Smerdon said: “The new service is a shining example of how healthcare providers are responding to the challenge of developing a more co-ordinated and person-centred service in line with the government’s Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care.

“When someone is at the end of life, it can be a very worrying time for them and their family, which can be exacerbated if accessing the care is frustrating.

“Being more innovative in the way we work, with a ‘one team’ approach and single point of entry to our service, means we’re more accessible to the GPs and others who refer patients to us. Now, with one call to our service, they can get the feedback they need so that patients can receive the right care more quickly.

“It is encouraging to see how our Crisis team has evolved in this way. We’re so pleased to welcome the new members of the team and looking forward to working with them. We will continue to work closely with Livewell Southwest community nursing teams who care for and support people at the end of life.”

Sharon King, Palliative and End of Life Organisation Lead for Livewell Southwest, said: “Helping someone at the end of their life is a privilege. It’s the last opportunity we get to do the right thing for someone, and at Livewell we share St Luke’s and Marie Curie’s aims to make the service the best it can be.

“By creating this Urgent Care Service, we are making it easier for people, their families and loved ones to get the right help quickly and easily, at a difficult and emotional time.”

Susan Egerton, Clinical Nurse Manager at Marie Curie added: “We have seen a huge benefit to patients and referrers since launching this joint service. By developing the service further, we will not only continue to ease some of the strain a family will experience when a loved one is terminally ill, but also ensure patients receive fantastic care that is right for them, at the right time. We look forward to continuing the great work.”

In true St Luke’s style, the team is sharing its learning with other healthcare providers so that more people benefit.

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