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Covid pandemic underlines need for new hospice in Norfolk and Waveney

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 August 2020

An artist's impression of the new Priscilla Bacon Hospice  Picture: Contributed

An artist's impression of the new Priscilla Bacon Hospice Picture: Contributed

Archant

The legacy of Covid-19 will be with us for some time, according to a survivor who is also a palliative care nurse. She spoke to Tony Wenham.

Palliative care nurse Janine Cott. Picture: ContributedPalliative care nurse Janine Cott. Picture: Contributed

One month into lockdown, a senior palliative care nurse began to feel unwell.

“I felt a little hot, but I didn’t have a temperature and there were no other symptoms,” says Janine Cott, a qualified nurse of eight years from Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, who had worked with the Hospice at Home team before switching roles this spring to the End of Life Nurses for Care Homes team.

“I had the weekend off and then on the Monday I suddenly felt really drained, everything ached, everything hurt like someone was sitting on my chest. I thought ‘I know what this is’,” adds Janine, whose work pre-coronavirus would take her to Norfolk care homes and facilities such as Priscilla Bacon Lodge in Norwich.

Mum-of-two Janine, who is married to a paramedic and lives at the family home near Dereham, had a swab test and 24 hours later tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, currently infecting millions of people worldwide.

A week later, while self-isolating, her breathing was still laboured; within hours, Janine was in a bed on a Covid ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

“Nurses make the worst patients and, because of my husband’s expertise, they let me go home after three days,” says Janine.

The family went into a further 14 days’ self-isolation and, although the children aged five and 13 were eligible to go to school because of their parents’ key worker status, the couple decided to keep them at home. “We were afraid of them taking the virus into school,” says Janine.

The legacy of Covid remains, however. Janine, who is not back to full strength three months after diagnosis – “I still have aching joints and, if we have a day out with the kids I know I’m going to be wiped out” – is sad that fundraising plans for the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal have had to be shelved.

Last year she raised more than £2,000 for the appeal after having her head shaved at the VW FAB Festival at Strumpshaw Steam Museum. This year the appeal was due to be the festival’s chosen charity – but the event has been cancelled due to the pandemic.

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The Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal, which is supported by the EDP and Evening News, aims to raise £12.5 million to build a state-of-the-art facility near the NNUH south of Norwich and is currently just over halfway to the target despite the current restrictions on fundraising (see panel).

After 40 years, and population growth of 220,000 in Norfolk and Waveney, Priscilla Bacon Lodge trustees last year launched the appeal for a new-build 24-bed hospice, expanding from the current 16 beds.

But there are now real fears that the crucial health service focus on Covid-19 could raise the death rate as the treatment of other potentially fatal diseases takes a back seat, putting further pressure on the Lodge.

Hugo Stevenson, the hospice appeal’s head of fundraising and communications, says: “Over the next 20 years, research undertaken before the Covid-19 pandemic suggests that 160,000 more people will need palliative and end-of-life care in England and Wales. In addition to this, we are likely to see a huge number of unnecessary deaths in the wake of the pandemic. These are caused by people not going to their doctor, scans and appointments being cancelled which prevented diagnosis, or surgery being delayed. Some experts believe that this could cause an additional 60,000 cancer deaths across the UK.

“Inevitably, this will increase the need for hospice beds. There is no question that it is more important than ever that we get building work under way and we appeal to the people of Norfolk and Waveney to continue their vital support of the Priscilla Bacon Hospice.”

Janine adds: “This [the virus] is going to be around for a long time.” Although she seems to be recovering slowly, working from home, Covid has clearly left its mark. “I was off sick for four weeks but, in hindsight, I should have stayed off work for longer,” she says.

In addition to the support provided by NCH&C, help is now at hand for people recovering from the virus with the launch last week of a new website aimed at explaining some of the after-effects and how to counter them.

See www.yourrecovery.nhs.uk

To support the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal, email hugostevenson@priscillabaconhospice.org.uk or call the fundraising team on 0330 223 4274.


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