A reflection of the challenges faced in a hospice as a Palliative Care Social Worker during the COVID – 19 pandemic

Written by Stella Murray – Senior Social Worker Well-Being Service, St Luke’s Hospice – Harrow – October 2020


I am writing this reflection on the 23/05/2020. The last three months seem a blur in my social work career due to the COVID -19 pandemic of 2020.

As a social worker of 30 years from the 23/03/2020 when lockdown happened working in a hospice has been the most challenging experience in my social work career.

I have kept a paper-based diary because so much has happened and I have found this beneficial in giving me a place to express my feelings and ability to process difficult experiences that I have encountered.

I have kept a memory box of the events that have happened which have included newspaper articles and photographs of the milestones of the pandemic.

It is also important to record the positives.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, health care professionals, care home staff, keyworkers and social workers have found themselves working in unfamiliar situations. The concerns about personal protective equipment, risk to themselves, their families and patients have all contributed to the pressures that we have been working under.

I have been working as a palliative care social worker for three years.

The hospice is a charity and it receives   40% of its funding from the NHS.

The rest is given by charitable donations.

The inpatient unit during the pandemic has increased from between 8 to 12 beds. Sometimes people need to come into the hospice for end of life care, symptom control management or carer support/ respite.

The day care centre and all the hospice charity shops have been closed and fundraising events have been postponed. The immediate adverse financial impact of this could be approximately a loss of £1 million per quarter.

The Patient and Family Support Team that I am a member of have been furloughed from early April, which include the wellbeing manager, my colleague who is a social worker, our social work assistant and the bereavement coordinator, leaving  myself, as the only social worker in the hospice.

Our bereavement volunteers are offering bereavement support on the phone which have been weekly / fortnightly sessions with the clients they have been supporting before the pandemic.

Sadly our bereavement service is not providing bereavement support to families that have been bereaved during the pandemic due to the team being furloughed.


Palliative care social worker’s Covid19 diary – Stella Murray