Hospice ‘champions’ could improve experiences of dying in hospital

Hospice of St Francis
Hospice of St Francis

The Berkhamsted-based Hospice of St Francis is launching a pioneering project which is hoped to improve patients’ experiences of dying in hospital.

The palliative care centre off Shootersway is working with Watford’s Peace Hospice Care on a year-long ‘hospice champions’ scheme, which will see specialist mentorship by a team of hospice workers on eight Watford General Hospital wards.

The idea is to encourage hospital staff to deliver compassionate care and communication with end of life patients and their families.

The project, which is funded by the St James Place Foundation, comes as a report from the Royal College of Physicians published last week revealed significant variations in the standards of care for people dying in hospitals across the country.

Last week, the hospice and its director Dr Ros Taylor featured on Sky news to talk about the findings.

Dr Taylor said: “We need to ensure that doctors hold the right conversations with patients nearing the end of life, and their families, at the right time. Our approach at The Hospice of St Francis is to be open with patients about their condition and make sure we talk to them about their symptoms and any pain relief they require, their concerns and future wishes.

“These conversations are vital to ensure that patients and their families are reassured and that, ultimately, they have a

ood death, leaving behind positive memories for loved ones.

“To achieve this, we need to ensure better education of healthcare professionals, introducing mandatory training to give them the confidence to have these difficult conversations. There should also be a change in ward culture so that patients and their families feel cared for and supported. .

Sarah Russell, director of clinical education and research at both hospices involved in the champions scheme, said: “This is a very important community outreach project and is a way that our hospices can share years of accrued knowledge to influence end of life care at the heart of our community, in a busy hospital environment.

“With our growing ageing population, demand for end of life care is going to escalate in the coming years and it’s vital that hospital staff are confident and competent to be able to hold the right conversations, at the right time, with patients and their families.”