The team at Tring-based Rennie Grove Hospice Care is calling on community supporters to help vital new equipment for its nurses.
Medical advances mean many patients with cancer or other life-limiting illnesses are living longer, but often with increasingly complex conditions and symptoms.
Now that GPs decide how much funding a healthcare organisation will get, the charity is under increasing pressure to provide even better services, and pay for them.
Director of nursing Sue Varvel said: “Not only must our nurses offer appropriate clinical care for patients facing more than one life-limiting illness, but they are also required to provide more detailed assessments.
“We need to equip them with a more comprehensive set of tools including thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure cuffs.”
Tympanic thermometers, which take a patient’s temperature through the ear, are the most reliable method of checking to see if a patient is at risk of infection.
Sue said: “Being able to take a patient’s temperature – especially if they are undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy – can be crucial.
“A rapid response to a high temperature really can save a life.
“At £40 per thermometer plus a supply of caps, the charity needs to find £2,400 to equip all our hospice at home nurses.
Blood pressure cuffs are another way in which our nurses carry out basic observations.
The cuff helps them to highlight and reduce risks to a patient’s wellbeing – for example, low blood pressure could suggest dehydration, which could make a patient more prone to falls, while high blood pressure in a patient with a brain tumour could suggest that their medication needs to be increased.
The charity has one cuff per team at the moment but ideally every nurse needs one.
At £20 each they need to find £1,200 to equip them all.
Another potentially life-saving piece of equipment is the pulse oximeter, which clip onto a patient’s finger and measure oxygen saturation levels.
A Rennie Grove nurse recently visited a patient who had no outward signs of a respiratory problem but the pulse oximeter helped pinpoint up on a potentially fatal blood clot near her lung.
The nurse said: “She had been on our caseload for over a year and despite her cancer diagnosis had been relatively stable.
“Over one weekend she felt very fatigued and had some mild pain but just described her symptoms as ‘unwell’.
“As her symptoms were vague it was initially difficult to diagnose the cause. She had no chest pain and wasn’t unusually breathless.
“I took basic observations which included her oxygen saturation level, as she was at high risk of a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot on the lung.
“The reading on my pulse oximeter quickly showed me that her oxygen saturation level was very low, and she needed urgent treatment.
“After consulting the out-of-hours doctor, I called an ambulance. Without this pulse oximeter, diagnosis and treatment would have been delayed and I wouldn’t have been able to give an accurate account of her observations, which ultimately could have delayed her treatment.”
Pulse oximeters cost only £18 each – to equip all the Rennie nurses with them will cost £1,080.
Sue added: “The pressure on our nurses to report in more detail to our healthcare partners is ultimately a good thing – it shows that commissioners trust and rely on our clinical knowledge and standards of care.
“Providing our nurses with more of the right equipment will be invaluable in helping them to continue to achieve these standards.”
If you would like to help the charity find the additional funds needed to equip all its Hospice at Home nurses, call 01442 890222 or donate online by clicking here