The working life of Scotland’s first hospice cultural liaison officer

Categories: People & Places.

Majabeen Ali is Scotland’s first hospice cultural liaison officer. Here she explains how her role at The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow involves engaging with the city’s diverse ethnic communities to make them aware of what hospice care is.

I remember when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer. I did not know what a hospice was, but because we lived in the south side of Glasgow, one of the community nurses transferred her to the hospice and that is where she received end of life care. That was the first time I visited the hospice at Carlton Place.

The hospice is not about the patient, it is about the whole family, and that is what touched us the most. We were allowed to come here at any time of the day, we could sleep here and there were no restrictions on the number of visitors. We were allowed to read the Quran, and we were able to go to a prayer room.

I noticed that this was a service my community did not know about and I wanted to be a part of it, to take it out to our communities. I knew we might have differences in religions but the cultural aspects are the same: we have families, and we have denials in accepting that the patient is at the end of life. I felt I had to do something.

I volunteered for two years and have been a member of staff for another six years. I did a scoping exercise at first, and I had leaflets translated into other languages, such as Urdu, Punjabi, Polish and Arabic. In the prayer room we set up prayer boxes with items for every faith. We also have ablution facilities.

My role is to liaise with ethnic minority communities and with health professionals. My first steps were to go back out into the community – the gurdwara (Sikh places of worship) and the mosques. I would speak about hospice care, end of life care, what palliative care is, and explain that this is a place where they can come.

There are assumptions by health professionals that these communities will look after their loved ones themselves and that they are coping. But that does not happen now because these are third and fourth generations, and that is making a big difference because I can see we have had a rise in the number of referrals.

This is a free service and our community should be using it. I have been able to provide awareness of the hospice, bring people into the hospice, show them what a hospice is and that it is not a place to die. It is about pain management control, and it is not just about coming into the hospice but about our services in a patient’s home too.

We now have 60 volunteers from different ethnic backgrounds but it has been hard. We need more young people to volunteer and get involved in fundraising. I’d love to hear from them.

I feel if I am able to help one person in one way or another it has made a difference in their end of life care. That leaves me contented that I have been able to help.

For more information visit The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice

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