Ensuring vulnerable patients are in safe hands this winter

Jennifer Voice is feeling well cared for this winter, thanks to the support of the Care Coordination Nursing team at Riccarton Clinic.

The team is contacting patients with complex health needs to check on their wellbeing and to go through a checklist of what they may need to stay well during the cold months. 

Care Coordinator Nurse Catherine Jordan says top of that list is to check if they need an Acute Plan created or reviewed. The plan supports clinicians to make decisions around the safe and effective management of patient’s complex health conditions by sharing important information that can be updated in real time.

“Acute Plans, which are part of a suite of Shared Care Plans, are an important tool we have up our sleeve for this group of patients,” says Catherine.

Jennifer and her husband Ron, who both have mobility issues, appreciate the team checking on their welfare, especially during Winter and with Covid-19 and influenza in the community. 

“We are so pleased that people are thinking of us and that even though our health services are extremely busy, they still take the time to call us,” says Jennifer. 

“Having our Acute Plans makes us feel safe, because we know it’s shared with other health professionals who also need to care for us. When you’re too unwell and can’t speak for yourself, the plan can speak for you.” 

Catherine says that having knowledge about patients’ needs and medical preferences on hand, in one place, for everyone involved in their care means they can provide the best support while saving valuable time and resources.

“We’re focusing on patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and older people who are particularly susceptible to complications from Covid-19 and influenza. We’re also contacting patients with cognitive deterioration, diabetes, heart failure, mental health conditions and those needing palliative care support,” said Catherine. 

“To protect vulnerable patients, particularly during winter, we create Acute Plans with patients over the phone. Once we build that relationship, patients are comfortable to talk over the phone and during follow-up calls, they may share more about themselves and reveal other areas our team can support them with.” 

Riccarton Clinic have more than 350 Acute Plans in place currently. The plans are succinct and pertinent to the main concern, such COPD. Patients like them because it stops them having to repeat their story each time. 

“As well as Shared Care Plans, we also ask questions such as, do they have a plan if they get Covid-19, have they had their influenza vaccination, is their house warm enough, do they have enough food and do they need taxi vouchers to help with transport,” says Catherine.   

“Patients appreciate us reaching out to them. We have the time to build a relationship with the patient and help them to navigate the services and support they need. This is also a great help to our practice team, who do not always have the time to offer this additional support during routine appointments.”

It is a proactive approach to ensure they get the help they need, with the aim that it does not get to a crisis point. Some patients only need one phone call to ensure they have what they need, and others need more support. 

“There is a lot of support out there, but many patients do not know what is available to them or need help accessing services. Sometimes people put these conversations in their back pocket; they may not need to act straight away but find comfort in knowing what their options are when they need them," says Catherine.

“We also do Advance Care Plans, which is about the patient’s choice around their end-of-life care. Our aim is to do more Personalised Care Plans (PCP) to see how these integrate into general practice.  PCPs help patients and their healthcare teamwork towards health and wellbeing goals.”

Read more about the suite of Shared Care Plans here

Pictured above is Jennifer Voice (L) and Care Coordination Nurse Catherine Jordan (R).

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