Two nurses at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have proved that staff can make a positive difference to patient care during the Covid-19 pandemic – from the safety of their own homes.

Laura Nunn and Nikki Cartwright assess patients’ fitness for systemic anti-cancer therapy (chemotherapy and other treatments) by checking a number of indicators before they attend for treatment.

The pair are normally based at the Day Treatment Unit (DTU) at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford and the Brodey Centre at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury, respectively.

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However, because they were deemed to be especially vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19, they have worked for extended periods of time at home and avoided contact with other people.

They both found a role which not only enables them to work from home, but has been a fantastic support to both patients and staff.

As soon as the necessary equipment and IT was in place during the first wave, both systemic anti-cancer therapy nurses began providing a new telephone pre-assessment clinic.

The day before a patient is due to attend DTU or the Brodey Centre, Ms Nunn or Ms Cartwright will call them. They will ask questions about their current health, side effects, checking if they fit the criteria for safe treatment, and if there is any possibility that they might have symptoms of, or been exposed to, Covid-19.

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The telephone clinic has been a success, streamlining and making the whole service more efficient. Patients now spend less time in hospital than before, and some have even been spared unnecessary journeys because potential problems have been identified and addressed the day before.

Oxford Mail:

Laura Nunn

Ms Nunn worked as a chemotherapy nurse before the outbreak. She was able to return to the DTU briefly, but is now working from home again during the second wave.

She said: “Transitioning from a clinical role to working from home has been a big change for me, but I’ve learned how to adapt to the unprecedented times alongside the rest of the nation. Still feeling connected to the patients and the team in the Day Treatment Unit has helped me to stay focused and positive during this time.”

Following a further health assessment, Ms Cartwright recently resumed work at the Brodey Centre, a satellite unit and part of the DTU.

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She said: “Patients found this new part of the service really beneficial, especially through their own isolation with shielding and with fewer face-to-face outpatient appointments. We are continuing to pre-assess patients as this is popular with patients and improves our service.”

In their roles, the two nurses offer advice and information about the protective measures and screening in force within the department. They also check patients’ blood test results, and ask about any possible side effects from previous anti-cancer therapy appointments.

If any issues with a patient’s treatment are identified, they liaise with the medical team to agree an action plan, while providing further advice and support to the patient.

Oxford Mail:

Churchill Hospital

Paula Hay-Plumb, OUH Non-executive director, said: “This is a brilliant example of our staff adapting to extraordinary circumstances, and ensuring that good can come out of a very challenging situation.

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“We are really grateful to Laura and Nikki for their dedication and willingness to take on new ways of working, and for demonstrating how we can improve our service in the future.”