“We need to ensure end of life care is accessible and inclusive to all”

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Mary Stevens Hospice in Stourbridge has been shortlisted for a Guardian Public Service Award for their work improving access to end of life care for the most vulnerable members of the population. Diversity and Inclusion Lead Gemma Allen tells ehospice how they are helping to empower people whose voices have traditionally not been heard.

This year we are delighted to have reached the final three for the Guardian Public Service Awards. These awards focus on projects, teams and individuals who are making a difference to people’s lives.

The hospice has been nominated in the care category for ‘Increasing care, compassion and kindness at the hospice and in the community’, for a project that highlights our commitment to improving services for communities who are vulnerable and may need extra support accessing palliative and end of life care.

The Mary Stevens Hospice provides palliative and end of life care and support for adults living with a life-shortening condition. Hospice care delivers person-centred holistic care, considering the ‘whole’ person, and care is based on individual need. However, the hospice recognised that there are people in the community who are ‘under the radar’ who can be disadvantaged when approaching the end of life.

As a traditional hospice building, with no community services, we were aware of the limitations presented by our ‘brick walls’. Not everyone in our community would know of or have awareness of the extensive palliative care services we provide for both patients and carers. Likewise, we questioned how we could meet the needs of people who are marginalised, for example those with a learning disability, who are homeless or living with dementia. We felt we needed to reach out, engage and enable our community to work alongside us.

Our values are care, compassion and kindness and we needed to ensure this was valid for our whole community, regardless of socio-economic factors or personal characteristics, ensuring care is accessible and inclusive to all. The nomination for the Guardian Public Service Awards is based on this community development work with vulnerable populations.

We have worked with and alongside people with lived experience and organisations, making changes, enabling hospice services to be more accessible and to help more people live well until they die through compassionate communities.

Dying Matters events were planned at learning disability centres with self-advocacy groups and at a homeless hostel during 2018 and 2019. People whose voices usually went unheard were encouraged to speak about death and dying, discuss thoughts and share their stories and experiences.

We have invested in specialist sensory equipment, enabling staff to adapt a room into a multiple sensory space that allows us to support patients and carers with a learning disability, dementia, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, or anxiety to have time out in a safe setting.

Furthermore, clinical services and our chain of retail stores were awarded ‘Safe Places’ status – a scheme for those in the community who are vulnerable. We developed accessible, easy-to-read information with pictorial signage throughout clinical services and worked with people with learning disabilities to develop a personal Advance Care Plan. This provides the opportunity to plan for future care in an easy-read format, with resources available to support these important discussions.

We established a partnership with Birmingham City University and launched the Midlands End of Life and Palliative Care Learning Disability Network, a community of practice that’s passionate about improving care, sharing knowledge and empowering people with learning disabilities to be valued members of the network.

We have worked with our local homeless community and provided an end of life and palliative care workshop delivered to police, hostel staff and local authority teams about homelessness and end of life care. We focused on the barriers and challenges people experiencing homelessness – including the ‘hidden homeless’ – face, attempting to access palliative care and bereavement support. We believe that this palliative care training to police officers is unique in the UK.

We have worked with others to develop extensive community engagement and development opportunities, creating valued and trusting relationships, in a ‘work with’ rather than the ‘done by or done to’ approach. We have empowered people to speak out, express concerns, share stories, and bring ideas to us – rather than the other way around. Likewise, encouraging asset-based working, recognising the strengths of others and nurturing relationships with individuals and external organisations.

We are delivering community development workshops, highlighting what communities can do for one another and assisting the Dudley community to be compassionate towards others, enabling a citizen-led approach to end of life care and bereavement. We think it’s important to share our work within the palliative care and public health sector on local, national and international platforms and the project lead has recently shared this work at Public Health Palliative Care International.

Commenting on the nomination, our CEO Stevan Jackson said: “I’m delighted that Mary Stevens Hospice has reached the final three for the Guardian Public Service Awards 2019 in this category which is at the heart of what we believe in.  We aim to be an inclusive organisation and are trying very hard to identify and reach out to vulnerable communities in our borough to ensure that they have equal opportunity of access to our specialist services”.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on November 26 and a special supplement will be published in the newspaper on November 27 featuring the finalists and overall winners.

For more information visit Mary Stevens Hospice