Dying Matters Awareness week underlines why planning for end of life is so crucial

GPs from across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are supporting Dying Matters Awareness Week.

The week runs until Sunday and draws attention to the importance of planning something that will happen to us all – the end of life.

It encourages people to talk about issues ranging from making a will to discussing funeral arrangements.

But doctors are especially concerned about making sure that plans are in place for patients who are nearing the end of life to be able to die as they would wish.

Dr Mo Huda, a Rugeley GP, Chair and End of Life Clinical Lead for Cannock Chase CCG said: “It can be an uncomfortable subject but it is something that GPs have to deal with as part of our day-to-day job.

“Far few people talk about end of life, and that can make planning difficult. We want to make sure that everyone has their wishes respected and can reach the end of their life in the place they would wish, which is often at home, in as much comfort and with as much dignity as possible.

“To do this we work with a range of NHS health professionals, the hospice movement who are not part of the NHS, caring organisations, but most importantly patients and their loved ones.”

Events are being held around Staffordshire to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week. They can be found at the Dying Matters website

Case Study

A patient who was an older lady born with multiple profound learning disabilities.

She had lived in a supported living care home in Staffordshire for over 25 years. She was unable to communicate verbally, but was able to communicate with long-term carers who knew her well using body language and eye and facial movements

In late 2017 she was nearing the end of her life. Her condition deteriorated and she was admitted to an older adults ward at Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Kieran Uttley, an Acute Liaison Nurse for Learning Disabilities at Royal Stoke explained: “We offered ward staff support and advice about her complex needs and how she displayed pain. Being in unfamiliar surroundings was also a concern.

“The patient’s brother and the health professionals from the palliative care team thought she would like to pass away at home where she had lived for so many years.

“This presented many difficulties but with a multi-disciplinary effort involving carers medics and nurses from the ward staff, palliative care nurses, hospice staff and the GP we were able to arrange this. Her carers and loved ones were fully aware and engaged in end of life care planning.

“Support was brought into the home from Dougie Mac Hospice, with staff able to offer around the clock support and working with district nurses and other health professionals.

“The patient was regularly reviewed by the hospital’s palliative care team and supported with communication, pain recognition and any care co-ordination difficulties.

“She passed away peacefully in January 2018 at home where she had lived for many years with carers she knew well beside her.”

“Afterwards the manager of the care home said, ‘I have to say that I think this role has been needed for so long, it’s like the missing link’.”

Case study ends

Kieran is among the organisers of a Dying Matters Awareness Week Coffee Morning which takes place from 11am-2pm on Friday May 18 which everyone is welcome to attend. Venue is Broom Street Resource Centre, Hanley, ST1 2EW.

It aims to raise awareness of end of life, palliative care and bereavement amongst adults with learning disabilities, their loved ones and carers.

There will be stands from Douglas Macmillan Hospice, Dove Counselling Service and Macmillan Cancer Support.

New mothers and mums-to-be to benefit from extra funding for mental health services

New and expectant mothers and those trying to conceive will benefit from a major investment in mental health services.

Around 20 per cent of women experience mental health difficulties while they are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or during the first year following the birth of their baby. This covers a wide range of conditions and if left untreated can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman and her family.

Now £833,000 is to be invested in improving perinatal mental health services across Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Shropshire that will directly help around 850 mothers by 2021.

The funding will provide greater community services and improve access to existing services for more women.

Alexandra Birch, Programme Lead for the Pan Staffordshire Maternity Transformation Programme, part of Together We’re Better the partnership transforming health and care for the people of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, said: "We know that perinatal mental health issues have a huge impact on mothers, their babies and their wider families. The impact is felt not only in the perinatal period, but for years to come.

“This investment is a significant step towards improving equal access to specialist mental health care and will improve the health and wellbeing of the population of Staffordshire and Shropshire.”

“Perinatal mental health is a specialist area of work and we are really pleased to have received this funding to be able to develop and enhanced the services caring for these women and their babies. Mental health difficulties during pregnancy and the first year after birth are often under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated. Although most pregnancies are uncomplicated by mental health difficulties, this is not the case for all. Unfortunately, a time that is perceived as being a happy one, can result in women experiencing psychological and emotional difficulties. We want to reach these women as quickly as possible so that they can receive high quality specialist care, closer to home when they need it, and go on to enjoy a happy, healthy life with their new baby.” Wendy Hallows, Chair of the Pan Staffordshire Perinatal Mental Health Network

“ For many women and families: having a baby is the most precious gift of all, however for some it can be the most difficult time in a women’s life. This funding is instrumental in delivering an outstanding service to women and their families across the Staffordshire, Shropshire and Stoke On Trent. It will support the development of new and existing teams which in turn will revolutionise the offer of Perinatal Mental Health Services across a wide geographical area. We are immensely proud to be awarded this money and will ensure that improvements are made that will have a sustainable impact on women and their families.” Thomas Evans, Deputy Chair of the Pan Staffordshire Perinatal Mental Health Network

The funding will help develop specialist community perinatal mental health teams to offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.

Teams can be made up of doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nursery nurses and administrative staff, who all work together to provide a comprehensive service to mums, depending on what their individual needs are.

Putting the stress on mental health and improving access to therapies

Stress and other mental health conditions come under the spotlight during Mental Health Awareness Week.

The week runs from Monday May 14 to Sunday May 20 and is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation.

Stress – a feeling of being under abnormal pressure – is a major cause of mental health problems and can lead to self-harm and even suicide.

Mental Health services in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are leading the way in a nationwide drive to improve care for adults with anxiety disorders and depression, including stress.

Leading GP Dr Waheed Abbasi, Clinical Director for Mental Health said: “Around one in four people will experience a diagnosable mental health problem in their lifetime and we know that demand for mental health services is set to grow. Our priority is to ensure patients receive timely access to psychological therapies so that they can receive the right support closer to home.”

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week people are being encouraged to know the signs of stress and the psychological and physical symptoms associated with it such as palpitations and quicker than normal breathing.

Dr Abbasi said: “We all experience stress and we all deal with it differently. However, when it is affecting your life, health and wellbeing, it is important to tackle it as soon as possible

“In Staffordshire we are making strong progress in delivering IAPT and are determined to keep the momentum going. We know that there is still more work for us to do to improve access to wider mental health services and are working with local patients and partners through our Mental Health Citizen’s Jury in the north of the county to develop an action plan for adult mental health services.” 

Local services can be contacted on the numbers below and their websites contain useful information on reducing stress.

North Staffordshire patients – North Staffordshire Wellbeing Service on 01782 711651.

Stoke-on-Trent patients – Healthy Minds on 0300 123 0907

Stafford & Cannock patients – Starfish Health and Wellbeing – 01785 243002 or 01543 572161

East Staffordshire patients – NHS SSSFT - 01283 536645 or 0300 555 5001

South Staffordshire patients - NHS SSSFT - 01785 783031 or 0300 555 5001

Burntwood, Lichfield and Tamworth patients - NHS SSSFT -01827 288843 or 0300 555 5001

Flo celebrated as today’s NHS top tech

Pioneering technology developed in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire has been selected as one of the Top 70 health innovations by a website dedicated to NHS top tech.

NHS70 Innovations is celebrating the 70th birthday of the National Health Service by highlighting the technological achievements that are revolutionising patient care.

A different technology or other innovation is featured each day and today (Friday May 11) Flo Telehealth is the star attraction.

Flo uses mobile phone technology to help patients monitor long-term-conditions and maintain daily contact with GPs, nurses or other health professionals. While it can apply to many conditions it is especially successful for patients with diabetes, asthma and COPD which affects breathing.

Flo – or Florence Simple Telehealth to use its full name - has been widely adopted across the NHS in both England and Scotland, and has now achieved international success in the US and Australia.

One patient, Jeff, said: “Flo resembles a friendly, good-natured and trusted member of the family. I feel more able to cope and more confident about the future. Most importantly, it helps me cope with my situation.”

Dr Ruth Chambers, Clinical Chair of Stoke-on-Trent CCG, has championed Flo. She said: “Technology is revolutionising patient care and is key to helping NHS staff manage rising demand. It’s a real achievement for Flo to be recognised as one of the leading innovations.

“Since 2014 many thousands of patients have benefited. It allows patients to monitor their own health using their mobile phones, checking vital signs such as oxygen levels and blood pressure and relaying the information to the their healthcare team, and summoning extra support if needed.”

The success has been underpinned by academic research carried out in North Staffordshire at Keele University.

Dr Chambers said: “This research evidence has been published in the British Medical Journal Online and other publications, which are really noticed and trusted by the medical community.

“This work has been led by Dr Lizzie Cottrell who is an academic at Keele University and GP at Wolstanton Medical Centre, the academic general practice for the area.”

While NHS Innovations celebrates an innovation every day, all of those featured can still be viewed. Flo is number 55.

My Diabetes sessions – 90 minutes that could change your life

New 90 minute courses aimed at educating people with type 2 diabetes are starting to have an impact across Staffordshire.

Type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled by leading a healthier lifestyle, is one of the county’s leading health challenges. Six per cent of all adults have been diagnosed with the condition, and the cost to the NHS is rising by an astonishing £10 million per year in Staffordshire alone.

The My Diabetes sessions will be held in locations across the county and will be conducted by a diabetes educator.

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