The family liaison support team based on The Royal London Hospital’s Queen Elizabeth Unit have been awarded the 2021 Nursing Times Award for ‘Enhancing Patient Dignity’.
The team was initially set up in 2020 at east London’s Nightingale Hospital where a group of Barts Health clinicians built a team to keep the families of patients informed of their progress.
During the peak of the second wave in January 2021, there were over 150 patients in critical care at The Royal London, with many being treated in the newly built Queen Elizabeth Unit. Staff from across the trust were redeployed to help care for the influx of Covid-19 patients, and visitors were limited to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and keep our staff and communities safe.
In recognising the importance of communication between patients and their families, the family liaison team was re-established to manage phone call updates and visits, allowing treating teams to focus on patient care.
Alice Kershberg, clinical nurse specialist for neurotrauma at The Royal London who helped lead the family liaison team, said: “The entirety of critical care was inundated, and no one was free to update families. We wanted to help families cope with the difficulty of not being next to those they loved at such a scary time.
Frank Chege, a patient liaison nurse for London's Air Ambulance who also helped to lead the team, continued: “The thought of a loved-one being alone in the hospital horrified many families. We spent a lot of time explaining that vast numbers of staff were engaged around the clock in their care and helped relatives navigate the complex situation of the critical care unit.”
From January to August 2021, the team took 13,000 phone calls and facilitated over 800 compassionate and end of life visits, as well as over 5,000 virtual visits. Additionally, they ensured patients had an 'all about me' poster at their bedside with photos and messages from their loved ones. The team helped patients mark Valentine’s Day, celebrate their birthday, join family weddings virtually and even played their favourite music at the bedside. Chaplains were a crucial part of the family liaison team, supporting the religious and cultural needs of patients and their families and coordinating bedside prayers.
Nicola Rudkin, a critical care nursing lead, said the team were invaluable to her colleagues: “Caring for and supporting a patient’s loved ones is ordinarily a huge part of what critical care clinicians do, but in the peak of the pandemic we lacked the ability to provide this. They relieved a huge burden for critical care teams but were also pivotal is ensuring the needs of patient and families were met - I am delighted that the valuable work of the team has been recognised!”
Dr Gareth Grier, clinical lead for the family support liaison team, said: “Our team was a small part of the gigantic effort made by the NHS during the most challenging time in its history. We are in awe of the work that so many people have done, and continue to do, to help patients, and we very much hope that the care that we provide for families will be a vital legacy in the coming years''.
As a result of the project, during the second Covid-19 peak The Royal London set up another family contact centre to communicate with families on every inpatient ward and is now developing a permanent patient and family contact centre.
Well done to our 2021 Nursing Times Awards finalists
Hannah Kosuge, a key member of the North East London Trauma Network team, was a finalist in the ‘Nurse Leader of the Year’ category for navigating the network through Covid-19 whilst also being redeployed to critical care.
Becky Platt, a paediatric nurse at The Royal London, was a ‘Nurse of the Year’ finalist for her outstanding work as a leader, mentor and role model.
The family liaison and support team were also a finalist in the ‘Emergency and Critical Care’ category.