Vulnerable patients are being given extra support in the community thanks to an innovative new project launched by University Hospital Southampton (UHS).
The development, known as the Patient Support Hub, is thought to be the first of its kind in the country. It offers a range of services to patients who are either isolated or need extra support before, during and after their care at UHS.
Set up during the first wave of COVID-19 initially to support a number of patients who were shielding due to medical conditions, it has grown into a wider support network which brings together volunteers and community providers to focus on patients’ wider needs.
Since its launch the Hub has taken more than 3,500 calls from patients asking for advice, help and support and 58 volunteers have given more than 330 hours of free service a week.
Funded by the Southampton Hospitals Charity, the National Lottery and NHS Charities Together – the charity for which Sir Captain Tom Moore raised over £33m – the project now offers services including delivery of food parcels and shopping, collection of prescriptions, befriending and signposting to other services in the community.
Emma Squires, Patient Support Hub lead at UHS, said: “What we are trying to do is help those who fall into the middle ground of being clinically well enough for discharge but who would benefit from a bit of extra practical and emotional support.
“That may include food parcels until they are back on their feet, an ear to listen and perhaps help to signpost to well-established community volunteering services that could help with longer-term support.”
Each week the volunteers are in contact with patients with a range of needs, helping to ensure they are supported in their own homes following their discharge from hospital.
Annie Knight, from UHS volunteers, said the Hub had also been a boost for the volunteers of all ages – including many young people – who have contacted the hospital trust throughout the pandemic wanting to help.
She said: “This project has provided some really important opportunities for young people who have been particularly hard hit by the impact of the pandemic and it has been wonderful to see them step up and for us to enable them to do that.”
Tony Smyth, who has been volunteering at the Hub since the first wave, added: “The Hub is so important to people in the community. It is a network of things that all have to add up to make it successful and the Hub seems to bring all of that together for the benefit of people who need that support.”
The Hub is one of a number of initiatives set up by the Patient Experience team using the services of the volunteers and funded by the Southampton Hospitals Charity. A patient property hub has also been established to enable inpatients to receive packages of essential items from home while visitor restrictions are in place, and a roll out of tablets to clinical areas has been funded to enable virtual visiting between family and friends.
Ellis Banfield, Head of Patient Experience at UHS, said: “We have always been committed to providing the best patient experience possible, a task that has been made all the more challenging with the restrictions and anxiety that the pandemic has brought. I feel incredibly proud to be able to support the team in delivering these initiatives.
“We know we cannot entirely replace the usual support networks that would normally be available to our patients through their family and friends but we are doing what we can to bridge that gap while they are in our care and through their ongoing recovery at home.”
James Beattie, former Southampton FC player and volunteer at the Patient Support Hub, said: “This really is a fantastic initiative, looking after the most vulnerable in the community. Sometimes we’re the first people that patients have seen in months and for many of them this service is a lifeline. As soon as there was a call out for volunteers, I contacted the Hub and am so pleased I did. It’s great to be able to give something back to the city that has been so good to me.”
Posted on Wednesday 10 February 2021