A ground-breaking new 24-hour phoneline offering specialist advice direct to the community and health workers in East Suffolk has been launched by St Elizabeth Hospice.
It is among the first hospices in the country to set up a helpline which reaches out direct to the general public as well as healthcare professionals on the subject of palliative and supportive care. And it is the first service of its kind in East Anglia.
Members of the public, patients, relatives, carers, GPs, nurses and other medical professionals, health and social care workers will all be able to get expert advice at the end of the phone – even in the middle of the night – from senior registered nurses, seven days a week.
The helpline is called OneCall and there is just one number to ring – 0800 567 0111 – and calls are free from a BT landline.
Jane Petit, St Elizabeth Hospice’s chief executive, said: “When in the midst of difficult times such as coping with an illness or caring for a loved-one, it is important all members of the community have quick and easy access to appropriate support and the correct facts.
“Having one phone number for anyone in East Suffolk who wants advice or information about our Hospice and palliative care issues will help us to reach out to the whole of the local community. Whether it be a patient facing a new symptom, a carer worried about giving the correct dosage of pain relief or a doctor with a query, OneCall is there to support everyone in our catchment area.”
There are similar phonelines aimed at health and social care workers, but OneCall breaks new ground by reaching out to the public as well.
Mrs Petit added: “With OneCall we are pro-actively reaching out to the community to give control back to the patients.”
Peter Espley, of Ipswich, who cared for his wife Sheila, said: “Sheila was ill for six years and had a very complex diagnosis. I cared for her at home during most of this time and if we had an emergency situation you could guarantee it was a weekend or bank holiday. Knowing who to contact for advice was always a worry and having to repeat all of her medical history over the phone made it even more of a concern, especially if you were then transferred to another person or told she had to go to hospital to sort out the problem.
“We often felt frightened and very alone.
“Once Sheila started being cared for by St Elizabeth Hospice it was a relief to know there was somebody available who understood and knew what to do. The new OneCall helpline will give people a great deal of comfort and reassurance.”
Sheila died of cancer in 2005 aged 56 and Mr Espley is now chairman of St Elizabeth Hospice’s Partnership Group which is a forum for patients, carers and relatives.
Referals to Hospice at Home, a nurse-led 24 hour reactive service, will now also come through the new number.