Dr Sallnow reflected on the growth of the conference since it was first conceptualised. She noted that now, rather than being aspirational, the abstracts submitted to the conference were now about: “actual practice and developing what we are doing.”
Manjula Patel, Health and Social Care Executive Officer at Murray Hall Community Trust presented the community development approach to health and social care programmes undertaken by the Trust.
She gave a variety of practical examples of innovative projects and services of how the Trust is working with local communities to empower them to support those who are in need of care.
Ms Patel spoke about the importance of collecting stories to help demystify death and dying, saying that one of the reasons why people are fearful of death and dying is that they have no idea what the dying process is like.
Ms Patel shared the work of The Bridge – a partnership to develop a health centre for young adults in transition from children’s to adult’s hospice care, and said: “There is a big gap in transition, not just for young people and their parents, but also for the health care professionals.”
She noted that the Trust focused on supporting people to utilise their own social networks, and pointed delegates toward the report: “An overview of compassionate communities in England’ – which is available online.
Elizabeth Bayliss, Chief Executive, Social Action for Health followed Ms Patel. Before she started her presentation, she asked the audience to shout out one-word impressions of the conference.
“Encouraging, humbling, heart-warming, energising , reinforcing and inspiring!” were some of the responses.
She gave the audience an overview of the compassionate neighbours training, noting that: “healthy communities are good for the whole society,” and arguing that: “we can’t leave life and death to the experts.”
She noted that the people were: “relieved to be able to care,” making the point that we lean towards caring naturally but society places all sorts of barriers in the way of this.
Dr Simon Noble clinical reader in palliative medicine BMJ palliative care editorial board gave a very entertaining and relevant talk on: ‘How to get published.”
He commended the two previous presentations, saying that there is so much innovative work being done and that it needs to be shared. He emphasised the importance of sharing through robust evaluations to show how good it is.
He argued that getting published is not beyond anyone in this room, and that we need to demonstrate the evidence to support the work that we are doing
Heather Richardson, CEO of St Christopher’s Hospice asked: ‘Can hospices really deliver a public health approach to end of life care?”
Dr Libby Sallnow spoke about the St Joseph’s experience in convincing people of the value of the public health approach to palliative care, saying: “This does not have to come as a cost to good specialist palliative care.”
She spoke again about the increase in interest and understanding in the public health model of providing palliative care, with people realising that this approach can really work within the UK context, working in harmony with current models and services.
Pat, a ‘Compassionate Neighbour’ and self-identified “foot soldier” gave her perspective as a gave an inspiring talk about being a Compassionate Neighbour in the West Indian community in Hackney, London.
She said: “My zeal and desire is to aspire and inspire before I expire.”
Re-framing death, loss and care
Dr Julian Abel, consultant in palliative care at the Weston Area Health Trust and Weston Hospicecare spoke about: ‘Re-framing death, loss and care.’
He argued that while the main part of our work is: how do we help people to make the most out of the time they have left. But often for the people we are trying to serve, making the most is not the first thing on their mind.”
He spoke about the networks surrounding the person with the illness, and the importance of starting to cultivate these networks from an early stage, by saying ‘yes’ to offers of help from friends and neighbours.
He posed the situation that faces many people in the workplace when they have received bad news and compared this to what this might be like if the Compassionate Cities Charter were to be implemented, where we could return to work to find: “active kindness and support in the office.”
He concluded by saying: Community interventions are not an add-on to palliative care, they are at the very heart of it,” and by asking: “how much of what we do as professionals could be done by non-professionals and would this make life more meaningful for the patient, family, friends, neighbours as well as people we know and people we do not?”
Dr Richard Smith, CBE, gave a very thought-provoking talk entitled: ‘Death: the Upside,” concluding with a rousing challenge, saying: “There is a place in society for turning around death denial and you are the people to do it!”
Afternoon presentations included a talk from Dr Christian Ntizimira on the impact of community health workers for continuum care of palliative care at community level integration in the public health system in Rwanda.
He noted that it would be impossible to talk about palliative care in Rwanda, without addressing the 1994 genocide, as he argued that the genocide took away the humanity of the Rwandan people, and the practice of palliative care can restore this humanity.
Mohanasundaram Thiagarajan gave a fascinating talk on rural palliative care in a low resource setting in Tamilnadu in Inida, informing those present that: “home based palliative care is the only way that some patients can be reached. “
Both presentations demonstrated what can be done with so few resources.
Dr Julian Abel, chairing the session, commented that Dr Thiagarajan had epitomised the idea of starting with the patient and working out what they need, and had provided this with ingenuity and creativity.
There was a consensus among the delegates in attendance that the conference was a huge success. However, the reach of the conference is not limited to those present in Bristol. Through social media such as Twitter and YouTube, the excellent plenary sessions and selected parallel sessions are available to anyone anywhere in the world.