Since the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, RedArc nurses have been seeing a change in emphasis in the support needed among employees and their families with chronic physical or mental health conditions, disability, or those experiencing trauma or bereavement. Inevitably, many employees will be affected by the intense pressure on the NHS, be that cancer patients who are not able to get the help or answers they need when they want, those dealing with the consequences of cancelled operations, or those with mental health conditions.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc commented: “Via the partners we work with, we’ve already received a lot of positive feedback that the support that our nurses are providing is a real lifeline in these difficult times – especially when other services aren’t available, or are only operating on a limited basis.”
Types of patient concerns
• Many employees who already have an underlying health condition are concerned about keeping on top of the frequently updated guidance: they are often already overwhelmed by their existing health problems and need support in working out the relevance for them. The massive amount of information in the media as well as social media means that many people need help in separating out the fact from the fiction and dispelling some of the myths about COVID-19 that can cause additional anxiety.
• Cancer patients are amongst the most anxious as surgery and treatments are increasingly being cancelled. Many have concerns about visiting hospital and whether to continue treatment that has already started, others worry about the spread of their disease, and the additional necessity to rigorously self-isolate for extended periods due to suppressed immunity. Some patients have even had chemotherapy suspended due to the risks involved.
• Practical considerations are also playing on many people’s minds including non-urgent appointments being cancelled, lack of access to GPs, and how to access medication and the support services that are usually available.
• Family is another big concern amongst many – both how to support those who are self- isolating or unwell, through to not being able to visit relatives in care homes, and restricted hospital visiting.
• And the financial impact of the pandemic on livelihoods is also taking its toll – from concerns about the ability to pay bills and mortgages, through to distress amongst the self-employed community about how to financially survive the situation.
One of the main roles RedArc nurses are adopting as the COVID-19 pandemic situation develops, is that of reassurance. Emotional support is needed now more than ever, particularly as the UK lives through the next phase of tighter restrictions in terms of movement and social interaction.
Christine Husbands continued: “Employees already have a lot on their plate – whether that’s because of their own health problems or those of a close family member – and the extra complexities as a result of the virus are causing additional stress and anxiety for many. A number of people may be unable to cope without the regular contact of a trained medical professional who can help to alleviate their fears.”
RedArc is also keeping close to developments in the various charities, support groups and research bodies to ensure that it can signpost individuals to other services if required. Whist in the current climate, both the providers and individuals may have to adapt to a more tech-driven, virtual type of support, it’s vital that people know that help can still be accessed.
Some specific examples of recent support that RedArc has provided:
• Help with pain management strategies when a hip operation was cancelled
• Researched and found a voluntary organisation to deliver medication
• Conversations to help an individual consider all of their options regarding forthcoming cancer treatment
• Organised telephone counselling for a small business owner who was overwhelmed by the financial implications
• Signposted to appropriate sources of advice for someone experiencing financial difficulties
• Additional phone calls to those who are more vulnerable or live alone
• Investigating private healthcare availability as an alternative to NHS treatment
• Emotional support for a pregnant lady worried that her partner will not be present at the birth of their child due to the restrictions on the labour wards
Christine Husbands continued: “Whilst RedArc’s services are provided via contracted partners such as insurers, it is designed to provide long-term, non-emergency support and cannot be accessed for people in an emergency situation, Coronavirus-related or otherwise, however it is clear that by helping our clients, we are alleviating some of the pressure on the NHS.
“With social distancing, we are currently unable to provide face-to-face services such as counselling and some therapies, and the availability of consultants to provide second medical opinions or private consultations is becoming increasingly limited. However, the remote emotional support and professional medical expertise we offer is largely unaffected and so our nurses are able to continue to deliver the much-needed reassurance that people need in these unprecedented times.”