During the festive period, things tend to slow down. It’s cold outside, warm inside, and – between the gift-giving and over-indulgences of Christmas, and the partying and resolutions of New Year – it can be easy to forget about those who are struggling and in need.
For Tracy Down, though – who’s team works year-round, including weekends, public holidays, and throughout the festive season – slowing down at Christmas isn’t an option.
“Our team ethos? That every patient, carer, or paramedic that we work with felt they got the treatment they deserve. That they were looked after the way they wanted to be looked after – and with compassion – when they needed support. That it was obvious we wanted to help them, and aren’t just a voice on the other end of the phone.”
Tracy works for ellenor, both at home, and from its inpatient and outpatient wards at Northfleet. As well as providing palliative care – plus a range of holistic complementary therapies and living well services – ellenor is also the only hospice in the area that looks after patients of all ages.
Unsurprisingly, that comes with a lot of admin.
Here’s where Tracy, Leader of ellenor’s Clinical Admin Team, comes in. Tracy arrived at ellenor in the summer of 2020 with the task of breaking down the team’s administrative silos, aligning its processes, and unifying its various departments.
On a day-to-day basis, Tracy is responsible for overseeing referrals to the hospice – which can total up to 30 in a single week – coordinating administrative support to ellenor’s clinical staff, and line managing a team of seven. The team also provides phone-based support and information to patients and their families – a key part of the role, but far from the easiest.
“We get a range of callers on the phone; people that are worried, upset or frustrated. As the first point of contact they have with ellenor we are skilled at picking up on that and being able to be calm and supportive. You treat all callers how you would want to be treated. If it was you in that situation, how would you want someone to look after you, to speak to you? That’s the only way I think it can be done.”
The team’s duties begin at the point of the patient’s referral. As well as contacting GPs for up-to-date medical records and histories, the team also contact referred individuals to explain more about ellenor’s services and discuss if it’s right for them.
And that administrative support Tracy’s team provides – particularly when families are concerned – doesn’t stop when a patient leaves the hospice or passes away. Her team is involved in referring families to counselling or finance support services, which are provided either by ellenor or its partners. Tracy and her team are also responsible for sending out letters to events, such as ‘Carer’s Cuppas’, where bereaved families can engage in conversations to help them come to terms with the loss of loved ones.
Sadly, it’s something Tracy can empathise with all too well.