"When some people are frightened about what the future has in store it is vital that we work at creating a compassionate community."
At Highland Hospice we aim to support people, their families and carers, living with an advancing, life shortening illness in the Highlands to live the best possible life and to prepare for and experience the best possible death. We offer inpatient care, day care and support for people living in the community. With the majority of our clinical and care services based on face to face interaction it was imperative we thoroughly reviewed how we could continue to deliver support to people in these challenging times. Each of our care services is continuing to be delivered in an adapted and tailored way depending on the needs of the people accessing that service.
Within our inpatient unit, staff quickly and effectively adapted practices to ensure safety for clients, family members, staff and volunteers. In addition, they are working with NHS professionals to determine how best we can support people requiring palliative and end of life support within care facilities in Highland.
In addition to providing direct support, at no other time has it been more essential to have the ability to communicate and share how best to manage services and care. Highland Hospice as a licenced ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) ‘superhub’ have the resources necessary to offer practitioners a platform to share and discuss the challenges and the solutions to day to day problems facing them and their clients. The ability to share good practice quickly and effectively has been invaluable.
Although our day facilities closed, the team are fully engaged in activities and support sessions with their clients and it is heartening to hear how well people have responded to this kind of support. At present, in addition to providing telephone catch ups, the team are delivering group video calls which include sessions on topics such as exercise, mindfulness, healthy eating, quizzes and more. With such innovative working, some of the clients have increased contact due to the type of virtual resources that are available. The challenges that clients initially faced accessing virtual rather than face to face support should not be underestimated. However, staff have been delighted with the clients’ desire to stay connected and their level of creativity in working with staff to find solutions.
Highland Hospice provides community support throughout the Highlands and our Helping Hands befriending service has continued to actively support clients living at home. In Inverness and Ross-shire the service is directly managed by Hospice staff and delivered by Hospice volunteers whilst in other areas it is delivered in partnership with local community groups. In response to COVID-19, our Helping Hands service extended their support by partnering with Highland Home Carers. This has meant that in addition to telephone support we are also able to offer further support outside the home such as shopping, collection of medications and occasionally food preparation etc. within a client’s home if they require assistance.
We had an amazing response from people volunteering support within their communities, however the anticipated concern that there would be an immediate increase in requests for assistance has not materialised. There will be a number of factors contributing to this such as an increase in services available in response to the lockdown. We expect that as lockdown measures lessen and people return to more normal routines some people will once again find themselves to be isolated and feeling the detrimental effects of loneliness. We are working with our new volunteers in preparation to provide more befriending support should this happen.
One of the main challenges at this time has been continuing to have the financial resources available to support the wonderful and innovative work of our clinical and supportive services. A recent reforecast of the budget indicates a potential end of year loss in excess of £1m. Although the organisation has reserves to weather one year of such losses, if income was to stay depressed on a longer term we may have to consider how best to prioritise our expenditure.
Like the clinical and supportive services team, the fundraising and retail teams have adapted their activity and introduced innovative and engaging online opportunities to support the Hospice as well as responding quickly to the green light to reopen the shops. This bodes well for future income in an economy hit by COVID-19 and recession over the next few years.
Highland Hospice is committed to continuing to work with the NHS and other third sector organisations to provide resilient support to people living with a palliative diagnosis. At a time when some people are frightened about what the future has in store it is vital that we work at creating a compassionate community.