Tackling COVID-19 together: helping people at the end of their lives

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

Like so many charities and businesses, the COVID-19 crisis has forced Hospice UK to innovate rapidly, writes Sarah West, Hospice UK’s Director of Communications and Campaigns.

With lives at stake, we could not afford to stand still and we knew early in the pandemic that more people would need end of life care because of the crisis. What we were not so prepared for was the amazing outpouring of support.

There has been incredible generosity from all quarters to help people at the end of their lives to get the care they need at this tough time, even when so many people are suffering their own tragedies brought about by this crisis. We have had local companies supporting their local hospices with PPE, national companies reaching out to provide free services to hospices across the country.

Individuals have walked for us, run for us, dyed their beard blue, and swum in the bath for us – all to raise money for Hospice UK’s Emergency Appeal which now stands at £735k.

This support means we can continue to lead hospices to reach more people at the end of their lives including those in care homes, as well as provide much needed bereavement advice and support to people who are now facing unexpected tragedy.

Recognising the vital role hospices play following our discussions, the Government stepped in and provided an incredible £200m of funding for hospices to provide critical end of life care and to support the NHS in responding to COVID-19.

Working closely with them we are pleased to report that Hospice UK successfully dispersed the first months of funding which reached hospices in record time.

Requesting a charity to disburse this level of funding in this way is an unprecedented approach by Government that reflects these unprecedented times.

It is also a clear indication of the importance Government places on successfully tackling coronavirus and supporting end of life care. We are proud of the trust placed in us to do this job and to provide healthcare for those in need, and are in discussions to see how this support can be extended.

We have also been able to provide a range of support for clinical colleagues. Every week for the last 3.5 months we have held virtual meetings with around 570 frontline clinical staff from across the country to share information, best practice and problem solve the dangers we face because of coronavirus.

A further 298 hospice CEOs, Directors of Finance and Chairs have met fortnightly to work out how we adapt hospice and end of life care services to respond to the crisis. Additionally, Hospice UK also holds regular meetings to support hospice and end of life care colleagues in fundraising, communications and governance.

We have all faced many challenges on a daily basis. Hospices have struggled to get hold of PPE but following our work and thanks to the dedicated staff at NHS, and the ITV news team who highlighted the issue; we are pleased to report that hospices are receiving weekly deliveries of much-needed PPE – vital to keeping people safe.

At such a difficult time, grief support is critical. We are running a service with NHS and the Samaritans to provide a trauma and bereavement service for all NHS and social care staff, drawing upon the expertise of hospice bereavement services.

We are also a member of the Our Frontline coalition with Mind, Samaritans and SHOUT, supported by the Royal Foundation, providing mental health support to all frontline workers from blue-light responders, to retail and delivery staff. We need to work together to help stay well and resilient.

The journey is sadly not over but we want to encourage you to stay with us on the road. We need you whether you are loyal supporter, member of the public, a Trust, a business or the Government.

Our work is shifting daily and we have innovated and had to take risks in ways we could not have foreseen. Importantly we are seeing innovation from hospices that will help more people get better end of life care.

We need to make sure we seize the moment to change and not to go back to the old way of doing things. We need good end of life care for everyone in this country and with your support, Hospice UK will continue to strive for that.

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