Essex hospice nurtures and celebrates innovation

Categories: Care.

The HEARD group was established in 2012 as an internal support mechanism to allow staff and volunteers to have the seed of their ideas for innovation nurtured through to completion.

HEARD was developed after the organisation initially undertook work towards accreditation as a Practice Development Unit from Leeds University. After receiving the accreditation for the first year, it was decided to continue with the same idea of excellence in practice development but under a different guise.

HEARD oversees the development of practice throughout all departments across the hospice, with the core objective of improving care for patients and families. The group members are representatives from a variety of different teams and departments across St Helena Hospice, including clinical staff, non-clinical staff and volunteers.

The group’s aims are to:

  • sustain and build on the culture of practice development within the hospice
  • celebrate innovation and to disseminate it locally, regionally, nationally and internationally
  • represent all directorates of the hospice and work together to maintain the high profile of education, research and practice development
  • raise awareness and understanding of how education, research and development apply to all areas of practice
  • provide a forum to exchange and generate ideas, acting as a resource for research and practice development.

Anyone from within St Helena Hospice can submit an idea to HEARD. A set of criteria has to be considered which underpins the delivery of excellence in specialist palliative and end of life care. The emphasis is on evidence-based practice wherever possible or identifying research strategies to support and inform original interventions.


A key activity of HEARD is arranging education programmes throughout the year around ‘Hot Topics’.

Each themed four to six week programme starts with a journal club reviewing a current article. The subsequent hour long sessions may include case study discussions, a guest speaker and/or an outline of a particular practice feature related to the theme. For example, the music therapist and a physiotherapist held a session where colleagues could experience for themselves the benefits of an initiative promoting singing exercises to help relieve breathlessness. Examples of other topics covered include learning disability (LD) and palliative care, palliative sedation and terminal agitation, and palliative care as a human right.

The Hot Topic addressing palliative care for people with LD contributed to an ongoing project to develop reciprocal training for professionals from the LD charity, THERA East, around palliative and end of life needs for people affected by LD. This work resulted in drafting an Advanced Care Plan (ACP) designed for people with LD and became one of the projects presented on the HEARD Celebration Day. Further work is now being undertaken to trial the ACP in various settings, and to create supplementary documents if necessary.

Celebrating developments

Other Celebration Day activities included three presentations that will also be written up for practice development purposes.

  • A day in the life of SinglePoint
    SinglePoint is the service that was introduced in St Helena Hospice in late 2013. It provides patients, families/carers and healthcare professionals with one telephone number (01206 890360) that is available 24/7 for advice and support as well as to assist in the co-ordination of the patients’ care.
  • Extended bereavement services
    The bereavement services were extended in December 2013 and now offer support to anyone who has been bereaved in North East Essex, not merely those who have had previous contact with the hospice.
  • The new Inpatient Unit Care Co-ordinator role
    A new role was introduced to the Inpatient Unit in January, offering a named individual as a consistent point of contact for the patients and their families from admission to discharge.

These presentations were supplemented by static displays, alongside others from the Hospice Education and Research Centre library, chaplaincy and rehabilitation teams.

During lunch, delegates were given the opportunity to network as well as to participate in experiential sessions on Pilates and gardening run by the rehabilitation team, while Chaplain Gill Moore looked at the use of finger labyrinths in creating sacred space.

There were 65 people in attendance, with a number of external visitors joining us, including Dr Karen Chumbley from the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.

St Helena Hospice Chief Executive Mark Jarman-Howe said, “I really enjoyed the creative and inspiring presentations; there were some great examples of innovative practice. It was also good to see that we had colleagues from the wider health and social care sector attending as well.”

There is more information about HEARD on St Helena Hospice’s website.

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