“Remember what you’d like for your own family when designing end of life care services”

Categories: Care and Leadership.

Rennie Grove Hospice Care in Herfordshire recently unveiled a new strategy with a focus on raising awareness of the holistic care they provide. Chief executive Stewart Marks tells us about their upcoming challenges and opportunities.

What are the key aims of Rennie Grove’s new strategy?

We’re recognising that the number of people who will need end of life care or palliative care services is growing, everybody knows that. One of our big focus points will be to make sure that we are available to more people when they need us. As we rely on referrals to our service a big focus needs to be how we engage with GPs and other healthcare professionals to make sure they are supported and able to identify patients who may benefit from our services.

We know that people know who we are as an organisation, and they know what the hospice sector does, but they don’t know specifically about our range of services or how we might help people around health and wellbeing in the early stages of a diagnosis or an end of life terminal illness. We need to be clear on what the opportunities are for people to get support from us.

What are the main needs of patients in the community you serve?

We serve Hertfordshire and also a large portion of Buckinghamshire, and there are lots of people and healthcare professionals who only think about how a hospice might help them in the very last stages of their life. But there are so many wellbeing services around and that we ourselves provide, whether they are support groups, therapy sessions, nurse clinic assessment and specialist nurse clinics as well as pre and post-bereavement services.

I think there is of course a huge issue around death and dying because we don’t talk about it enough. So how do we live really well when we’re in those stages? That is a big focus for us as an organisation. The people of Bucks and Herts who we look after don’t always see that kind of activity, and we are able to provide it to patients in their own homes, as well as through our service in Grove House in St Albans. It’s a great opportunity for people to get localised care based at home.

What are the main challenges Rennie Grove faces?

There’s always the challenge of profile, and there’s always the challenge of money and how we raise it. Only 13 per cent of our services are funded by the CCG. As well as adults we also provide palliative care to children, and we virtually only have funding from NHS England for that, although there’s a lot going on at the moment about how that could improve over the next few years.

Also remaining efficient, making sure that we work collaboratively and in partnership with other people, and that services are not in any way duplicated.

What do you see as the main challenges for the hospice sector overall?

Sustainability, as funding diminishes. Lots of hospices get funding from CCGs which doesn’t increase year on year, but costs do, like the cost of your electricity and all the utilities. But it’s also about being really open and direct about how you maintain control over your costs and at what point do you review them all. That is a real skill we have developed, but we need to keep focused on.

In the time that you’ve been at Rennie Grove, what have its biggest achievements been?

We continue to look after an increasing number of patients and the feedback we get on our services is very strong. Also in the last year we’ve looked at our brand and developed the new strategy and toolkit around it, because we need to be really clear in our messaging. Lots of people kind of understand, they think they know about hospice services, but don’t know what it is that we actually do, so it’s about being very clear about developing our focus and ensuring people understand what that is.

As well as those corporate ways of thinking we’ve also been really clear about defining what the purpose of Rennie Grove hospice care is, and how we communicate that to people. That’s been a really interesting development for us over the last year – the staff and volunteer team across Rennie Grove is actually really clear on the focus and they’re able to articulate well to people in the community what it is that we do.

We’re really proud that over 85 per cent of the patients in our care who have expressed that they want to die at home, are able to do that. Last year it was 80 per cent, so we’re moving up. It’s a huge contrast compared to other parts of the country and also other parts of healthcare. Being able to offer people the choice of where they want to be cared for and where they want to die is a real focus, it helps the whole economy, and it makes it a much more pleasurable experience for people in the family.

We want to ensure that our healthcare professionals and GP services are unique and personalised to not only patients but also those who are caring for them. It’s important that families are holistically included in a patient’s decisions and in the services we provide the patients, because it has a real impact on the people who are left behind.

The joys of organisations like ourselves, and particularly when we’re working in people’s homes, is that we get connected with the family too. Being able to offer services to the family members is really important because we only get one chance to get somebody’s death right.

It’s really important to remember what it is that you would like for your own family when you’re designing and delivering services, and to include families in that. It can give those left behind a real sense of having made the experience of death a very good one.

For more information visit Rennie Grove Hospice Care