Help the Hospices 2013 conference gets under way

Categories: Education.

Seven sessions took place inside the shelter of the Bournemouth International Centre, each provoking animated discussion and lessons on how to take the theory into practice.

Robert Melnitschuk, Help the Hospices policy and advocacy manager, attended the master class led by Greg Parston from the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College in London.

Robert reported that the workshop entitled, ‘New thinking and new ways of doing: exploring innovation as a means of transforming hospice services’, considered the challenge of implementing change effectively.           

The participants learned that research has shown that on average it takes 17 years from identifying an area for change and implementing that change effectively.

Although there is significant variation. For example, 30 years for mental health reform and less than 10 years for some heart surgery reform.

CEOs and senior management have a role in enabling as well as driving change, according to Greg Parston.

‘Articulating a vision’

He invited attendees to consider their own hospice experiences:

“Sometimes we focus too much on funding issues, which are important but perhaps we need to focus on services and needs first to ensure resources are utilised efficiently and effectively.”“Bringing our staff with us is challenging but articulating a vision that they can see themselves a part of will help us to achieve change and transformation.”

“We need to really step up our game in terms of patient and public engagement.

“I feel that perhaps I have been too complacent – I need to change and support my colleagues to change too.”

ehospice asked Greg what hospices should be doing to survive in the current climate?

“Hospices need to think outside of themselves … if they continue to think too narrowly and just about themselves, there’s a danger that they become complacent because of the good work they do and the world around them is changing more rapidly than will allow that to sustain them.”

Epic journey

Some delegates had embarked on epic journeys to attend the master classes, such as Hospice Isle of Man CEO, Margaret Simpson, who travelled for 20 hours to reach the conference.

Despite this, when ehospice caught up with the CEO, she had a broad smile on her face and said: “Well, it’s all about dedication!” 

Margaret had opted for the master class called ‘Increasing your personal impact as a leader’, with Jocelyn Cornwell from the Point of Care Programme.

“It was very much a practical session, but it was full of fun as well as learning. It was interesting to learn how people see you and what kind of an impact you have.” 

‘Creating the future’

Dr Alex Jadad from the Centre for Global e-health innovation, was another popular speaker on the programme, with a full room of delegates keen to learn more about the mysteriously titled session: ‘What is now proved was once only imagined.’

The class explored the re-invention of the hospice in the inter-connected age and Dr Jadad said the session would focus on “how to create the future.”

He set the participants the task of imagining they had the opportunity to create a hospice from scratch; as though hospices didn’t exist.

“Everybody will tell you what a hospice does and how it does it, but no one will tell you why it does what it does,” he continued. 

Dr Jadad offered examples to the delegates of companies who focused on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ but who forgot to consider the ‘why’, and consequently went bust.

ehospice will find out more about the work of Dr Alex Jadad when he delivers his plenary session at the conference on Tuesday afternoon.

As the master classes came to a close, staff at the registration desk sprung into action as the remaining delegates arrived.

Following refreshments and the viewing of the numerous exhibitions on show, Richard Smith delivered the opening plenary of the 2013 conference to a packed auditorium: ‘Death: the upside’.

Opening plenary

In an lively and provocative session, Dr Smith’s focus was on the fact that there is very much an upside to death. He opened with a simple argument: “Death is a good thing… Without death every birth would be a tragedy.”

He introduced the concept of death denial, stating that: “Our society denies death. This denial causes extra pain and suffering.”

He added: “Death denial diminishes living and causes problems beyond healthcare.”

Doctors in some ways are more part of the problem than they are the solution, he argued, pointing to evidence that doctors are reluctant to engage with patients about their end of life care wishes.

He also pointed to research from Dying Matters which suggests heavily that people in Britain struggle when it comes to talking about death and dying.

In a deeply personal talk, Dr Smith shared his parents’ experiences of care. Recalling his own father’s death, he said that the whole experience of his father dying turned around once he started to receive palliative care and from there on he had a very wonderful death.

Dr Smith went on to argue that we need to rediscover the positive aspects of death and stop denying it, claiming that the hospice movement has a key part to play in this.

He acknowledged that we are at a time when people are beginning to rediscover the importance of death – citing Dying MattersGood Life, Good Death, Good Grief in Scotland, death cafes, and the South Bank festival of death.

He ended with a challenge to everyone in the room: “A few determined people can change things that look impossible to change and I challenge you to change the way we think about death and dying.”

An engaging Q&A session then followed in which the issue of assisted dying was addressed. On this issue, Dr Smith said assisted dying could be part of the formula when talking about dying.

You can view a video of this plenary from the Help the Hospices website.

Drinks reception

The day officially ended with a drinks reception at which Help the Hospices chief executive David Praill launched the charity’s impact report showing how it has supported hospices.

This morning (22 October) saw the launch of the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care’s final report. You can read about this on ehospice.

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