HEALTH care professionals unused to providing end of life care or talking about death have been tapping into the expertises of specialist staff at St Margaret's Hospice during the coronavirus crisis.

Chief executive Ann Lee said St Margaret's nurses are no strangers to dealing with the heartbreak of losing a loved one and supporting people facing a life-limiting illness.

She added: "Just because we’re in the midst of a national crisis doesn’t mean our conversations stop. In fact these conversations have become all the more meaningful and important.

"Talking about death and dying is a huge part of what we do at St Margaret’s to prepare patients and their loved ones for what is to come and to help prepare them for the challenges they will face.

"We will be joining in with the national discussion this week along with other hospices as part of Dying Matters Week – an awareness campaign designed to get people talking about death, dying and bereavement."

The hospice has adapted its services to ensure that, even if it is not safe to see patients face to face, they can still speak directly to staff over the phone.

It has seen a 20 per cent increase in calls to its 24-hour advice line during the last month.

New practical resources for families and carers have been created and are now available online, including tools to help people talk about loss and say goodbye to those they love.

Mrs Lee added: "At a time when digital resources have become so important, we decided to make sure that no matter where you are you are able to access our nurse’s care and support, whether that’s through our 24/7 advice line or via the new pages on the website."

Joy Milliken, St Margaret's director of clinical services has praised the efforts of staff during the current lockdown.

She said: "I have watched in awe as our nurses and clinical team have worked through this pandemic, innovating how they work to ensure the best possible care and support for our patients and their families.

"Whether they have been visiting patients in their homes, supporting colleagues in care homes, caring for our patients in our in-patient unit or being on the end of the phone 24/7, they have put themselves on the frontline fearlessly.

"Huge credit should also go to our local community whose unwavering support has meant that we have been able to continue ensure dying people in our community receive the best care they possibly can."