Gillian Sherwood, director of clinical services at The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, focuses on why there is much to celebrate in Hospice Care Week.
End-of-life care in the UK has been ranked as the best in the world with a study praising the quality and availability of services. The study of 80 countries said, thanks to the NHS and hospice movement, the care provided was "second to none". This is worth celebrating and in Hospice Care Week, from October 3-9, let’s examine what hospice care is and some of its misconceptions.
Hospice care is seen as end-of-life care. Staff from The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow who work in schools across the city find pupils imagine the hospice to be a nursing home with no doctors or other allied health professionals: they think the hospice to be a place where people go to die.
The reality is people can receive care from the hospice alongside any other treatment or drug therapy and at any point during a terminal, progressive or life-shortening illness such as cancer, heart failure, lung disease or neurological conditions, to improve their quality of life. People can be referred in their last years, months, weeks, days or hours of life.
Hospice care is an approach, rather than a type of treatment. It involves a combination of care and support that looks after all the important aspects of a person’s wellbeing –whether it’s their physical, psychological or social needs. Misconceptions about what a hospice does, not just from schoolchildren, often leads to referrals being made when people are in their last weeks of life, thus patients and families miss out on the broader benefits the hospice has to offer, which can help improve the person’s quality of life and improve their family's ongoing journey and bereavement process.
So how do we do this at Glasgow's Hospice? There are a diverse range of services available. Our day services give people the opportunity to access peer support with others in a similar situation. As well as the highest quality specialist medical and nursing advice, our day and outpatient services offer activities that include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, art and creative writing, as well as complementary therapies. Our outpatient services take our consultants in palliative medicine to work alongside general practitioners in their surgeries, in our communities. Meanwhile, the community team includes specialist nurses and allied health professionals who work alongside district nurses and social carers in patient’s own homes to enable people to live well where they want to be.
We have a volunteer befriending service which gives carers the opportunity to have some time out knowing their loved one has someone with them. And our specialist inpatient beds provide expert care delivered by a range of health and social care professionals to people with more complex needs. We also provide input to the hospital specialist palliative care team working alongside the other specialties within the acute setting to improve quality of life.
We leave no-one out and our inclusive approach to caring for everybody affected is part of how we deliver our holistic compassionate care. We are there for people at the most difficult times of their lives - for patients, family members, carers and friends - and we offer bereavement services, one-to-one and group counselling opportunities.
The hospice is far more than a building: it is a philosophy of care with the aim of providing high-quality care for all, irrespective of age, gender, faith, race or ethnicity. We have a dedicated cultural liaison officer, for example, who has been able to take palliative care right to the heart of Glasgow’s growing multicultural communities.
While the hospice's current building in Carlton Place allows us to look after and care for so many people, it was not designed with young adults in mind. We have been working to understand what the needs of these young people are in order to provide the most appropriate care as we move to our new home in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park in 2018.
New research published by Hospice UK highlights how hospices are ideally placed to support Scottish health decision-makers to identify and support the palliative care needs of their local communities. It also highlights the substantial contribution to Scotland’s health economy by charitable hospices. Last year they spent more than £55million on caring for patients, their carers and families, with the majority of this generated through community fundraising and donations. To put that in context, it costs £5m to keep the doors of our hospice open every year and provide a gold standard of service, with £3.1m of that money raised by donations.
We have much to be proud of as we move forward, so celebrate with us in Hospice Care Week and continue to work with us as we continue to innovate and change to meet the transforming needs of Scotland.
Gillian is a senior nurse with wide range of experience in palliative care in a number of professional roles; from management and leadership, to practice development and providing specialist palliative care across acute services, in day treatment units, in specialist inpatient units, and in the community.
Gillian is passionate about developing services in collaboration with patient groups and health and social care partners to meet the individual needs of the diverse population groups the hospice serves.
As The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice moves forward our models of care will need to change, and Gillian is excited about leading the clinical teams through this transition, while always continuing to strive for excellence.