At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK’s NHS was not only treating large numbers of patients who had contracted the virus, but was also assisting bereaved families who were struggling to cope. In response to a request for bereavement support from the Northern Care Alliance (The Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust), NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) set up a Bereavement Helpline to assist.
During the pandemic, much of NHSBT’s usual work was put on hold, with front line workers unable to fulfil their normal duties due to lockdown restrictions. As such, they had over 100 staff volunteer to work on the Bereavement Helpline service, providing practical, emotional and financial advice to those who had lost friends and family.
NHSBT turned to patient engagement and experience provider, Content Guru, and telecoms giant, Vodafone, to support the technical side of the Bereavement Helpline. Together, partners Content Guru and Vodafone set up a remote, resilient contact centre solution enabling trained support staff to make and receive calls, all within just three weeks. This allowed NHSBT employees assisting bereaved families to work from home, protecting both service users and advisers from contracting COVID-19.
The helpline was available seven days a week for 12 hours per day. The service supported nearly 500 bereaved persons and families and worked closely with charity partners to signpost people towards further help, based on each service user’s individual circumstances.
As lockdown began to ease and NHSBT’s employees began to return to their usual roles, NHSBT recognised the need to continue providing support to the bereaved, though on a lesser scale due to a lower infection rate. NHSBT decided to hand the helpline over to Sudden, a charity which specialises in assisting people who have been bereaved by any kind of sudden death, from early August. Should a second wave of the pandemic occur, the service can be quickly scaled back up to support an increased volume of callers.
Ian Taylor, Head of Service Development and Performance, NHS Blood and Transplant said: “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved through the NHS Bereavement Helpline.
“We provided a rapid response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and as an organisation, we could not have managed this without the support and dedication of the team at Content Guru.
“Thanks to the commitment shown we were able to launch a brand new service and go live within a matter of weeks, ready to meet the bereavement needs of the North West of England. This achievement was made possible by the team at Content Guru going the extra mile during very difficult times.
“We have supported close to 500 calls from bereaved individuals, which has made an overwhelming direct impact to their lives during such awful times. There have been significant changes to palliative care and end of life services as a result of the pandemic, creating difficult and challenging situations for bereaved families. I hope everyone at Content Guru will be proud of the part they have played.
“The NHS Bereavement helpline has represented all the best qualities and values of all who have been involved in it, and we are truly thankful for Content Guru’s support and determination and are incredibly proud of everyone involved in making it a success.”