Our dedicated liver nurses provide support to anyone affected by liver disease through our helpline, and since the pandemic started they have been working tirelessly to offer support; we supported 140% more people in March 2020 than in the same period last year.
We have taken calls, emails and social media messages covering every aspect of the pandemic, from questions about treatments to specific information about particular diseases and the impact of the virus, as well as calls from stressed and suicidal callers who need mental health support.
Among those who we help, many have compromised immune systems, some are waiting for liver transplants or were due to embark on treatment for liver cancer, and others are living with long term liver conditions.
We are also supporting the NHS, relieving pressure on liver teams by providing another place for worried patients to turn - patients like Bill:
Bill called our helpline in March. He has autoimmune hepatitis and is on immunosuppressant treatment. He wonders if he is extra high risk, so he had lots of questions for our Liver Nurse Manager Rebecca. Bill is currently in the category of patients who should be shielding for 12 weeks to keep themselves safe. Bill told us that he and his wife have been staying indoors but are having difficulty accessing shopping and support. Rebecca was able to offer them signposting and information of who to contact. He was extremely grateful to hear a friendly, reassuring voice.
Jenny called our helpline in March. Her husband has decompensated cirrhosis and is very unwell. We discussed how hard it is to care for her husband, even more so now with being isolated as he is high risk for COVID-19. We discussed the importance of her reaching out to the liver consultant and GP and discussing her concerns. We also discussed getting emergency help if he deteriorated rapidly. She became upset and we also talked about support for her – she is nursing him 24/7.
As soon as our helpline began to receive calls about coronavirus, we responded by researching and posting the latest guidance on our website, to help liver patients and their families.
Our coronavirus information page is now updated regularly to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information for liver disease and liver transplant patients, including those who might be in the very high risk groups.
Information and links to resources have been shared through our social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and we have also published a series of blogs offering practical support, tips and advice.
Articles include this blog about managing anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis, advice on welfare and benefits during the pandemic and COVID-19 FAQs.
We have also responded to numerous enquiries from the media in relation to how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting patients. This includes a piece on the BBC news website featuring Ana-Rose, who is currently waiting for a transplant, and also a piece in The Times this weekend.
We have also had dozens of patients come forward to share their experiences of lockdown to help others in a similar situation.
Just like many charities, the coronavirus crisis is likely to hit our charitable income. Fundraising events have had to be cancelled and other funding sources are threatened but in these worrying and uncertain times, vulnerable liver patients need our help now more than ever.
That’s why we’re taking a creative approach to our fundraising activities, and encouraging our amazing fundraisers to do the same. We’re reaching out to all our supporters to make sure they know we’re here for them, and are encouraging everyone to think differently about fundraising activities.
Our Together at Home fundraising campaign offers ideas for virtual events you can do at any time via any digital channel – Zoom, Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp video or Facebook Live. Whether it’s an online fitness challenge, a virtual dinner party or coffee (just donate the money you would have spent).
We have also launched an Emergency Appeal, to make sure we can keep up with the increased demand on our nurse-led helpline.
Donations to support the helpline can be made here.
The British Liver Trust’s support groups offer liver patients and their families an opportunity to share experiences and find much-needed support. These groups, which take place in Scotland and Wales, can be a lifeline to those who use them.
However, social distancing guidelines mean that face-to-face groups can’t currently go ahead, so we’re rethinking the way we provide that support.
We’ve talked to patients who attend our groups, and are currently exploring options to provide virtual support groups, which we hope to launch in the coming weeks. More details will be announced as soon as our plans are in place.
Our Love Your Liver roadshows are a fantastic opportunity for people to learn about liver health, and find out more about their own risk factors.
What happens at the events?
Visitors to the mobile units can take our liver health screener and, if the results suggest a potential risk of liver damage, take a non-invasive liver check with a FibroScan machine.
Changes to 2020 schedule
Sadly, our roadshow visits to Scotland in April and Kent in May have been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis. We will be putting together a number of alternative options but confirmation of new planned dates will depend on a range of external factors, and we will be following the latest Government guidelines at all times.
We will look forward to visiting Scotland and Kent with the roadshow at a later date.
Like so many others around the UK, we have changed the way we are currently working, so all British Liver Trust staff are working from home.
Our office staff have dusted off their desks and cleared their kitchen tables so they can set up a work space at home. Virtual meetings are now taking place over Zoom (with only the occasional interruption from children or pets!) and we’re all checking in on each other regularly to make sure the British Liver Trust team are safe and supported.
Without your support, we would not be able to continue to reach all those suffering, or at-risk of, a liver condition.
By helping us raise funds and awareness, you are making a difference to so many people who need our support more than ever.