Embedding vision and changing culture

Categories: Care.

Location, location …

As participants at a recent master class discovered, location has proved to be key in enabling St Wilfrid’s Hospice to create a building which supports their vision “of a community where people talk openly about dying, live well until the end of their life and where nobody dies alone, afraid or in pain.”

Indeed, if you ask for directions from Eastbourne’s Hampden Park Station to St Wilfrid’s, two things are striking – firstly, station staff instantly know where you mean and, secondly, the directions take you  “just past the sports centre and opposite Sainsbury’s.”

Ample parking for visitors in front of the building reinforces its accessibility while, at the other side of the building, proximity to Sussex Downs College means that hundreds of students walk past it every day.

At night, an illuminated stained-glass window has become something of a landmark for motorists on the busy A2021.

“From tucking up to reaching out”

As we entered the hospice, what was immediately striking was the lack of a reception desk in a tall, light-filled area known as ‘the street’ in which all visitors are welcomed by one of 126 volunteer hosts.

Drawing on the model of the Anniversary Centre at St Christopher’s, the street has a café at its heart, with striking commissioned artwork and live music and opportunities to interact with an artist in residence.

The hosts, who are the responsibility of a front-of-house manager, are part of a flexible team which can respond to changing demands and which provide cover 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Just as master class participants had travelled from across the UK, St Wilfrid’s Chief Executive Kara Bishop described the seven-year journey to the new building and some of the far flung influences on its development. These included a “Building with Barriers” conference in Inverness in 2009, the publication of the Demos report in 2010 and, in 2011, a Sussex hospices conference to consider its implications. Their thinking was also influenced by the part vision played in a highly successful campaign for McGill University “Campaign McGill”.

A catalyst for change

Deputy Chief Executive Karen Clarke shared some of the theory and practice of the organisational change which informed moving from the original building, an Edwardian house in a residential area, to a green field site.

Notable among these were a range of change management work streams, extensive communication and consultation and, as the move came closer, the opportunity to anticipate and practise new systems, eg changes to drug rounds and the introduction of electronic records.

Equally important were opportunities for staff, volunteers and patients to make the transition from Mill Gap Road to the new building via a farewell project features of which included a ‘walking bus’ and books of remembrance.

From day therapy to wellbeing 

Hospice patient Terry Morris described the change from the more ‘cosy’, individually directed activities in day hospice to those on offer in the FAB (‘fatigue and breathlessness’) clinic.

Despite his initial apprehension, Terry found himself energised both by the normality of the setting and the enabling approach to his condition. Moreover, many of the original day care group continue to meet – with friends and partners – in the community café where prices are deliberately set at a rate to encourage custom rather than to generate significant profit.

Taking stock and retaining the vision

With much of the change management having been realised, notably attracting and retaining new employees and volunteers while ensuring low turnover, the whole project has been key to helping St Wilfrid’s work towards its strategic priorities, encapsulated in REACH:

  • Responding to growing demand
  • Enabling people to stay at home
  • Addressing social and emotional needs
  • Collaborating and education others
  • Harnessing compassion in the community.

Despite this, there’s no sign of any complacency; Kara and her colleagues work hard to avoid any ‘creeping institutionalisation’. They continue to explore ways of engaging with new sections of their community and bringing the public into what has achieved the status of a community resource as well as a centre of clinical excellence.

This was the fourth in a series of master classes which Hospice UK ran in partnership with member hospices. We will be offering a new series of master classes in 2015 to showcase good practice and offer contemporary perspectives on challenges which many hospices are facing. Please contact Jean Hindmarch if you would like to suggest a topic and/or /or host a master class.

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