Five New Year’s resolutions for hospices

Categories: Opinion.

As a new year begins, Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive at St Ann’s in Greater Manchester, looks at the resolutions hospices could make for 2019.

This hospice sector that we love so much is more dynamic than it’s ever been and it’s so great to be part of it. Clearly there’ll be lots of change coming our way but it’s exciting, and with a bit of nimble footwork, we can regard every challenge as an opportunity.  In each of our localities, we are influencing the broader health and social care sector with great effect.  We have made great strides in having our specialist care recognised across the board and because we’ve been bold, the concept of talking openly and positively about palliative and end-of-life care is becoming much more common.  We’re dispelling myths around modern hospice care, and effectively highlighting the breadth of support we offer to patients and their loved ones, as well as the net benefits we provide to the NHS.

The beginning of a new year is a good time for both reflection and planning. If we were to talk of resolutions for 2019, what would they look like in our hospice world? Perhaps something like this:

Resolution 1: Be ambitious

Being ambitious is vital if we are to ensure our care remains fit for purpose and that we can continue meeting the needs of our patients and their loved ones.

We’re the experts, and we know the difference our specialist care makes to the people who access our services.  We must never forget that and with strong ambition we can allow ourselves to think tangentially about what hospice care is, and what it could or should be in the future.

Resolution 2: Continue collaborating

One of the first things that struck me when I joined this sector two and a half years ago was the spirit of collaboration between hospices.  Collaboration was a constantly emerging theme at last year’s Hospice UK National Conference.  It is clear we share ideas; we look at ways to pool resources; we combine expertise to drive forward best practice.  Collaborating will continue to be crucial, particularly with political and economic uncertainty that surrounds us.

In addition to working together, we should also look more broadly to continue to collaborate outside of our sector too.  Are there clever, innovative ways we can work with others to generate fresh income streams?  Are there other health professionals or care providers we can work in partnership with that we’ve not already considered?  Are there other communities we can engage with in order to reach even more people who might benefit from our care?

Resolution 3: Bang the drum

I’ve said this before, but I strongly believe that we must not be coy.  The vast range of local communities from right across the UK who untiringly support the work we do know our value.  Our patients and their families know our value.  We must make sure we continue to shout from the rooftops about why hospice care is important, and why we need support to carry on caring.  Strategically communicating and telling our story as often as possible to all available audiences is a key foundation to realising our ambitions.

Resolution 4: Stand out

We mostly enjoy unwavering support locally but how can we help ourselves stand out?  Behind-the-scenes innovation can reap great rewards.  For example, development of digital systems and updating back-office functionality can lead to organisational efficiencies and cultural shifts, creating headspace for creative thinking and activity.

Without the need for a full-blown reinvention, it is possible to influence a positive change in the way people perceive us and receive our messaging.  There’s a lot of noise going on around us, whether via traditional media, online, on social media or simply in the local pub or shopping centre.  We have to make ourselves heard above the constant charity chatter.  We should work hard at finding ways to cut through the noise and be proud to stand out.

Resolution 5: Say ‘thank you’ more often

Obviously, so important. We should always take time to thank the people that enable us to continue providing our world class care to patients and their families.  Whether that’s the staff and volunteers who pull out all the stops to go the extra mile each day, the businesses who support us with donations, the shoppers who pop into our retail outlets to spend a few pounds and show their support, or the individuals who stay up until the early hours to pound the streets in our Midnight Walks.  It only takes a minute to say thank you but it makes a huge difference.

It’s also important to share thanks we receive from those we are caring for.  It’s crucial to regularly share positive feedback from families across the organisation, with staff, volunteers and trustees. It helps remind us of the value of the work we do, proves that every single one of our colleagues can have a positive impact on the lives of our patients, and reminds us why we do what we do.

Happy New Year everyone.  Let’s hope it’s an ambitious, collaborative, noisy one that makes us all continue to be proud to be part of this amazing sector.

For more information visit St Ann’s Hospice

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