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Local nursing support

Many people live a long way from their local hospital, so it is important to be aware of local services that can support you or the person you are caring for. This section explains the services that are based locally in the community rather than in hospital, such as nurses in the community and hospice care.

Community health services

If you are being cared for at home, you will probably want to access community health services at some stage. For example, you might need help from a community nurse at home. These services support families as well as people who are ill, so make sure you ask for support if you need it. They may also provide access to practical support, such as equipment.

It can sometimes take time to organise care and support at home, so try to find out what is available in your area before you need it. Your GP can help you with this.

What happens when someone leaves hospital?

Before someone leaves hospital, they should be given information about any care they might be offered at home. This may be called a care package. The support offered will depend on how unwell the person is and the support they have from their family.

It’s a good idea to ask about this support well before you leave hospital. The nurse in charge of the ward may be able to arrange it. You will normally have an assessment by a community nurse or an occupational therapist at the hospital. The GP should also be aware of the care package. If your needs change while you are at home, you can ask for another assessment.

Nurses in the community

If you need nursing support at home, this is most likely to come from the community nursing service. Your GP or main contact at the hospital should be able to refer you to a community nurse.

Nurses will normally visit during the day, but there will be a team available in the evenings. In most areas, nurses will also be available at night, so it should be a 24-hour service. Ask the GP or the nursing team about how to get help during the night.

Depending on how services are organised where you live, nursing support may be given by different nurses who provide different types of care.

  • District nurses give nursing care and work closely with GPs and other services to coordinate care.     
  • Specialist nurses (palliative care nurses, hospice nurses or Macmillan nurses) work alongside the district nurses to help people manage their symptoms, and give practical support.   

Specialist nurses in the community are different to the clinical nurse specialist who you may have seen at the hospital. The clinical nurse specialist will be able to help with questions about treatment or side effects, but won’t visit you at home. If you don’t know who to contact about your care, ask your GP or main contact at the hospital.

Marie Curie nurses have a different role. They provide nursing care at home for people who are nearing the end of their lives. For example, they may come in overnight so that a carer can get some sleep. The GP or district nurse can put you in touch with a Marie Curie nurse.

Hospice Care

Hospices provide palliative care for people with an illness that can’t be cured. A hospice care team may include nurses, doctors, social workers, counsellors, and more. A hospice isn’t just for someone at the end of their life.

Hospice care is free. Services can vary between hospices, so not all hospices may provide all the services mentioned here. Services may include:  

  • managing symptoms and side effects, such as pain
  • inpatient care, where you stay at the hospice for a short time – for example, to get symptoms under control
  • outpatient care, where you go to the hospice for an appointment and then go home after treatment
  • day care, where you spend the day in the hospice but don’t need to be admitted or stay overnight
  • Hospice at Home services, which provides hands on nursing care at home
  • emotional, spiritual and social support
  • support for families
  • practical and financial advice
  • complementary therapies.

Most people are referred for hospice care by their GP, district nurse or palliative care nurse. Ask them what hospice services are available. Hospice UK has details of hospices in your area. Or you can call your local hospice to ask about their services.

“I was told about the local hospice straight away. I saw them in the early days about supporting our children. I was offered support, groups and complementary therapy.”

Thinking about the future

You may want to think about the care you wish to receive in the future. If you become less well, it can be more difficult for you to make decisions about your care. You may want to think about what care you would or wouldn’t want, before you need it. This is called advance care planning. You can talk to your doctor or nurse at any time about how you would like to be cared for in the future – you don’t need to wait to be asked about this. Read about planning your care.

Find out what support is available to help with financial advice.

Read about practical support available, such as help with travel to the hospital or equipment for your home.

Read our information for family members caring for someone with pancreatic cancer, and the support available.

Updated September 2019

Review date September 2021

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