COVID-19: Stories from the frontline

From the frontline we meet Elizabeth Lammie from the Social Work Relative Support Service who explains how the team has been helping patients' families

Lucy Clarke, Nikki Larking and Elizabeth Lammie

“I am a qualified social worker and along with my colleagues Lucy Clarke, Nikki Larking and the wider social work team we work at King’s across a number of different departments. Our experiences span health settings, child protection and adult social care.

“Our Relative Support Service has a number of staff who have been redeployed to support relatives of patient with COVID-19. The aim is to enhance patient care by providing remote support to family members and obtaining important psycho-social information to assist our medical colleagues.

“The type of support we have provided to relatives has been varied. Often, we have been a listening ear to whose are struggling to process and deal with what is happening to their loved one. Other times, we have been asked to provide practical information, such as the process for organising a funeral, or about infection control. We have linked in with community services to ensure elderly or vulnerable relatives of patients have enough food. We have signposted relatives to more specialist services in palliative care for bereavement support or counselling.

“We felt we could use our social work skills to support relatives who may be distressed or require information whilst their relative is in hospital in such a challenging and unprecedented context, and this in turn enhances the care provided to the patient. We’ve learnt of local arrangements being deployed across wards critical care units to support relatives, and offer our service as a way to enhance any existing arrangement or support in other areas if this is felt to be helpful.

“As social workers we are often responding to crises and are used to adjusting to new and difficult situations. The main challenge we have faced is working with different groups across unfamiliar specialist areas of the hospital. We have adapted by working together as a team and drawing upon each other expertise, sharing knowledge, skills, and experiences to inform our practice.

“We are working together as a team, with one goal, we have found the beauty of being surrounded and supported by professionals within our discipline. Relationships and staff rapport have grown, which ultimately leads to a more supportive work environment. At the end of the day, we are all in this together.”