Day 4
Day 4

Friendly Ears in the Festive Season: How ellenor’s Clinical Admin Team Supports Patients and Families at Christmas Time

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 ellenors 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.

Tracy’s family accessed similar services when her own father – who was looked after by ellenor when diagnosed with a life-limiting illness – passed away. The care he received under ellenor, who also helped organise Tracy’s father’s wedding to his life-long partner shortly before his death, is one of the reasons Tracy joined the organisation; to ensure that future families receive the same level of support that she did.

“The care and help that wasn’t given not only to him, but to our whole family, was just amazing. I didn’t know how deeply ellenor actually looked after patients and their families.”

Tracy is also quick to stress how well the rest of the team  – whom she affectionately refers to as her “girls” – have adapted to the changes of the last year.

“I’ve had to learn everything, but all the girls have had to learn how each service works. Hats off to them – they’ve done brilliantly. No one’s left on their own.”

After a difficult year and a half for the world, Tracy’s team are now looking firmly to the year ahead, and how they can continue bringing smiles to the faces on the other end of the phones.

“A lot of people said to me ‘working in a hospice must be a bit miserable.’ Actually, it’s not! It’s one of the loveliest places. Everyone’s friendly, everyone’s happy – we have such a laugh. We support each other too when someone takes a hard call or is upset. My door is always open.”

And, in a world where the future has been effectively put on hold, Tracy still has a firm focus on the future. 

“I want to get back to keep providing personal service, so patients and families don’t just think they’re a number on a screen – they see that they’re a person to us. I want ellenor to grow, and I want to grow with it. I want to be here throughout.

Tracy’s message to the community? That, even when everything else slows down for Christmas, ellenor’s Clinical Admin team doesn’t. They’ll be here to talk to you, help you out, and allow ellenor to continue giving the gift that money just can’t buy.

“During the festive period, we’ll still be here answering all your calls. But we’d like to take this opportunity to wish all our patients, their families and the local community a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, from us. Thank you!”