International partnership spreads excellence in hospice care

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Kathy Longden, clinical services director at Treetops Hospice in Derbyshire, and hospice nurse Coreen Astle travelled to Hospic Jordán in Tabor, 50 miles south of Prague, on 14 October.

Together, Kathy and Coreen have 17 years’ experience of operating a hospice at home service, where nurses and health care assistants give one-to-one end of life care to patients in their own homes.

The three-day trip was arranged and fully funded by Treetops Hospice supporter Gerry O’Neill, who was chief superintendent with Derbyshire Police until he retired in 2002. He now lives near Prague in the Czech Republic and supports Hospic Jordán.

Kathy explained: “Gerry put me in touch with the hospice lead nurse Barbora Nováková. We initially emailed each other regarding the proposed trip and an itinerary was agreed. Barbora acted as spokesperson for the team and expressed their desire for the linking of the two hospices.

“On the first day, I gave a presentation about Treetops Hospice, starting with our history and then moving onto where we are today and our future plans. It was very well received by the team with lots of questions being asked and it was clear that they were encouraged and inspired.

“On the morning of the second day, we were invited to visit a patient in their own home that the hospice was supporting. Both Coreen and I were very humbled by this experience as it demonstrated so clearly that despite the patient, who had dementia, being unable to understand English and we equally couldn’t communicate in Czech it really didn’t matter and touch and other forms of non-verbal communication were a much better form of supporting her with her condition.

“At lunch-time we met the vice Mayor who came and spoke to us about hospice care in the UK and was equally enthusiastic and pleased with the liaison.

“Now that we’re back in Risley, we are keeping in touch with Barbora and her team. We have extended an invitation for a reciprocal visit to Treetops Hospice so that they can get first-hand experience of working in a much more developed team.

“Overall we had a very special time with our new Czech friends and look forward to future collaboration.”

Barbora Nováková, lead nurse at Hospic Jordán, said: “The visit of Kathy and Coreen was enriching and worthwhile. It was wonderful to experience that even though we are from different countries, speak different languages and come from different backgrounds, we do the same work, have similar feelings and experiences.

“There was a moment at our patient’s home when Coreen talked to the Czech patient in English, the patient answered in Czech and they just understood each other. It was lovely. We could see both Kathy and Coreen were no strangers, they just became a part of our team while visiting our patient with us.

“I hope our relationship and partnership with Treetops Hospice will grow and that we will be able to visit Treetops Hospice next year. I am looking forward to seeing Treetops Hospice services in person, as we know the palliative care in Britain has a longer history and is of an excellent quality.”

Barbora concluded: “It is a great opportunity and we are very grateful for Kathy’s and Coreen’s willingness to come and share their experiences with us. Thanks also to Gerry O’Neill who enabled this visit to happen and who covered all the expenses. We have a lot to learn.”

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