Partnership between two UK hospices improves community experience around palliative care

Categories: Community Engagement and People & Places.

The National Commission into the Future of Hospice Care invited hospices to consider opportunities to work with each other to share resources and expertise. This was a key recommendation at its end, focused on strengthening understanding of the contribution of hospice care.

The two hospices serving South East London – St Christopher’s and Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice have done just that – coming together in a blend of formal and informal ways to maximise what they can achieve together to the benefit of people who are dying or bereaved in their area.

The partnership began to take shape some two years ago. The CEOs from both organisations met to talk about areas of mutual interest and challenge, giving rise to a shared belief that, together, the hospices could strengthen local understanding of what they offer to the local health and social care economies, they could achieve greater scale in some of their initiatives and provide better to support each other.

Members of both Boards met to confirm a mutual understanding of the partnership and its benefits, an MOU was signed and the CEOs and their teams were charged with making the partnership happen in practice.

One of the early successes of the partnership focused on the development of a new Twilight Walk across an area of SE London where the hospices share a boundary and supporters. Over 320 people registered to walk in support of both hospices raising a total of £40k in its first year. The event is planned again for September 2019 where we hope to raise a total of £50k.

Another has been the development of a new collaboration called the Hospice Education and Learning Partnership (HELP), which pools resource and expertise to increase reach, scale and quality of End of Life education and training for South East London and beyond.

This alliance brings experts from both organisations together with the aim of delivering high quality training for health and social care professionals across a wide range of sectors. The programme of HELP has relevance across old age care, acute hospital services as well as primary care, care homes and prisons. Its scope, resources and support has increased as a result of the partnership.

Learning has taken place across the two hospices. A rehabilitation lead in one hospice supports and guides the more junior team in the other; similarly the lead on retail in one of the partners has offered some “consultancy” to the other to share learning around efficiencies and improved productivity.

Importantly, local and STP wide negotiation of NHS funding for hospice services has been strengthened through shared knowledge about the “deals” being negotiated; through joint lobbying and a united narrative about the value of hospice care in the local area and this year, both hospices were able to secure an above inflation increase in contract value.

Like any partnership, there are challenges to be overcome. Governance, including that related to data sharing must be carefully considered; sharing staff and resources calls for generosity, creative approaches to cost allocation and similar. But its overall value is not to be underestimated.

It is hard to know the long-term future of the partnership but there are early wins to support the wisdom of the recommendation of the Commission.

The three CEOs (one hospice has two Joint Chief Executives in a job-share) are committed to working across traditional organisational boundaries – along with their Boards and senior teams – with an overall ambition of shaping the systems within which they work, improving their impact and being sustainable in the long term.