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St Barnabas House shows what it takes to provide hospice care during COVID-19

TWICE as many visits to patients’ homes; 2,350 counselling and emotional support sessions; 1,300 shopping trips, pharmacy collections and phone calls by ‘Helping Hands’ volunteers; and countless video calls to keep in touch – this is just some of what it took for St Barnabas House to provide end of life care for local people and their loved ones over the last six months.

St Barnabas House is one of more than 200 charitable hospices across the UK taking part in Hospice Care Week this week, led by the national hospice and end of life care charity, Hospice UK, highlighting what it takes to provide care to those who need it most.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commitment of staff and volunteers, and the kindness and support of the local community has meant that St Barnabas has been able to continue caring for patients and their families in Worthing and surrounding areas. Patients like 51-year-old Mark Reipond, who usually visits the Day Hospice.

After being referred to St Barnabas House for palliative care in November 2019, Mark became a regular visitor to the Day Hospice, until it had to close in March due to COVID-19. While the service is starting to re-open now, many people like Mark found the period of lockdown extremely hard.

St Barnabas House shows what it takes to provide hospice care during COVID-19
Mark Reipond

Mark said:

“I found shielding during lockdown a real struggle if I’m honest. I had no one else with me in my flat to chat to and share my time with, and I missed the companionship and connection that I get from visiting the Day Hospice every week.”

Despite having to close the Day Hospice for several months, St Barnabas made sure that they kept in touch with patients to offer support.

Mark continued:

“I was getting regular phone calls from the clinical team at the hospice, as well as weekly counselling sessions, which I found really helpful. It’s so nice to know that St Barnabas is always there for me, and it’s wonderful that I’m able to start visiting the Day Hospice again. I’ve been able to resume my physiotherapy sessions and enjoy some art and photography activities.”

While some services had to cease at the start of the pandemic, the hospice itself opened five new beds to provide additional support, and the Hospice at Home team continued to deliver end of life care to people in their own homes – visiting twice the number of people they would usually. For the team, delivering hospice care is about ‘making sure patients’ wishes are met. It can be unrelenting and emotionally exhausting, but so rewarding at the same time.’

Hospice UK estimates that since the COVID-19 crisis began in March, collectively hospices have lost in the region of £70 million in fundraised income. Many hospices in England rely on 70% of their funding from public donations through charity shops and fundraisers, which has not been possible during the pandemic. Only 24% of St Barnabas House’s £9million annual care costs are covered by statutory funding, which means the support from the local community is vital.

Rosemarie Finley, CEO at St Barnabas House said:

“During the pandemic, the team have really been going above and beyond to ensure that patients and their families are still receiving the care and support they need. From the increased number of visits to patients’ homes to video counselling sessions, aspects of some people’s jobs have changed considerably, but those who need St Barnabas remain at the heart of everything we do.

St Barnabas House shows what it takes to provide hospice care during COVID-19
Knitted hearts

“But we couldn’t do what we do without the help of our local community. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have received so many generous donations, from scrubs and face masks to hand lotions and cakes. As well as continuing to support the hospice financially through donations and fundraising, people have sent us kind messages and even knitted pairs of hearts – helping to keep families connected at a time when they were not able to be together. This is what it takes to provide free hospice care to almost 2,000 people each year – a whole community working together and helping each other.”

Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said:

“Hospice Care Week is an annual week of activity, celebration and action, to raise the profile of, and help to change people’s perceptions of, hospice care across the UK.

“There are more than 200 hospices across the UK that work to support individuals and families with end of life care. Roughly 83% of hospice care is delivered in the community, and that requires a network of staff that people do not necessarily see or know about. With the world dealing with the effects of COVID-19, expert end of life care is more important than ever – and hospices need our support.”

For more information about Hospice Care Week and what it takes to provide local hospice care, please visit the St Barnabas website: https://www.stbarnabas-hospice.org.uk/events/hospicecareweek/.

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