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South Lakes Rapid Response Team rises to challenge of coronavirus and helps patients to stay in their own homes

Donna Malcolm OT Integrated Rapid Response Team South

The work of the South Lakes Rapid Response Team has been hugely important during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis as the community team helps patients to stay out of hospital and in their own homes.

Donna Malcolm, who lives in Kendal, has been an Occupational Therapist (OT) for 20 years and has worked in her current post with University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) for six years.

Donna said: “As a Rapid Response Team we are used to things changing every day but recently things have been more fast-paced than usual.

“In our team things are constantly changing and you never know what each day will bring. Since the pandemic started, we have seen a swift increase in the number of patients we are supporting.

“Quite a few of our patients have been COVID-positive. At the start, it was obviously a new illness for us to deal with but have adapted quickly and learned new things.

“A very positive aspect is that we have been able to support a lot of people to successfully stay at home during the pandemic. We have done this wherever possible.

“It is very rewarding when a person is acutely unwell and we can support them to stay at home with medication and adjustments to their environment. Often, people do recover and manage to stay at home.

“We were recently able to support a lady, who really didn’t want to go to hospital, to stay at home and to be pain free. The whole family was very appreciative. It was the right equipment and the right advice at exactly the time she needed it. The patient and her family were very pleased that she could stay at home.”

Integrated Rapid Response Team South UHMBT

As the Rapid Response Team’s role is to go out to patients’ homes, team members are currently wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

Donna said: “That has been a challenge, particularly because there isn’t always a lot of space in some households.

“We have been contacting patients before we arrive so that they know we will be wearing PPE and can understand why we are wearing it. It’s better if they know what to expect.

“We have widened our OT assessments to include taking routine clinical observations and pressure area checks. This is a new way of working for OTs in our team and has helped reduce the number of people visiting our shielding or vulnerable patients.

“We’ve had people deployed to work with us from other team such as the Lancaster Therapy Team, and the Community Respiratory Team and the Case Management Team. Some of our staff have had to self-isolate so it has been great to have that support from other teams.”

The South Lakes Rapid Response Team is based at Morley Moss on Oxenholme Road in Kendal and shares offices with a Psychology Team and Acquired Brain Injury Team. The team also provides a Community IV Service for the Trust.

Rapid Assessors go out into the community to do assessments of patients and see if the patient’s needs can be met at home. End of Life Care is also provided by the team.

Patients are mainly older people but the team does work with people from the age of 18 years and over.

As an OT, Donna checks to see if the patient’s environment can be adapted and does an assessment of the patient’s needs. She also facilitates early rehabilitation when the patient is discharged from hospital. The service covers a wide area including Dent, Ulverston, Grasmere, Milnthorpe and down to the Lancashire border.

Donna, who is married with two children aged 11 years and 14 years, says she loves working for the team.

She added: “It is great working in the Community. We have a really nice mix of nurses, OTs and therapy assistants.

“The current situation is difficult but we support each other and, as we share a building with the Psychology Team, they have also offered support.

“We all like working with patients in their own homes. We get to see who they really are and it’s so interesting to hear their stories of when they were younger. It’s an incredibly rewarding job.”