In 2017 we implemented our five-year strategy, ‘Closer to You’, to provide more care and support closer to where people live. With the belief that one third of people who would benefit from hospice care were not accessing the care they needed, alongside our organisational goal to make sure that no one dies alone, afraid or in pain, the Closer to You project set out to:

  • Reach more people in the towns and villages across our catchment area
  • Make care accessible to elderly people
  • Support people with both cancer and non-cancer diagnoses
  • Increase awareness of the care that is available
  • Reduce loneliness and isolation

Now, four years in, we look at what we have achieved so far.

Supporting more people in their own homes

St Wilfrid’s Hospice provides palliative and end of life care to patients in Eastbourne, Hailsham, Heathfield, Seaford and Uckfield, and all areas in between. Over the past few years our Community Nursing Team, who operate seven days a week, have continued to work alongside the hospice’s Therapies Teams, as well as GPs and District Nurses, to ensure that our care can reach as many people who require it.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, the Community Nursing Team made 4,215 visits to 1,065 patients. In the year to 31st March 2020 this had grown to 5,271 visits to 1,337 patients, an increase of 26%. Even in the last year, with all of the restrictions around Covid, home visits were maintained at around the 5,000 level.

As well as this, our Care at Home Team launched in 2017 to provide personal care to people so that they could remain at home. From a standing start this team now provides around 1,000 hours of care per month across our catchment area.

We have also been able to improve our response to urgent need and one of the ways in which we have developed this is through our 24/7 Nurse Line. Calls to this advice line have grown exponentially and in the last year we have handled over 19,000 calls. Alongside this, we have established a Single Point of Contact team, which triages all referrals to ensure we are responding in a timely fashion.

Increasing wellbeing and independence

Another objective towards achieving our ‘Closer to You’ goals was to increase wellbeing and independence through one-to-one and group support. This support is given through clinics and groups in the hospice’s Wellbeing Centre, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Complementary Therapy.

Since 2017 we have seen a 24% rise in the number of patients supported by Wellbeing, and despite the temporary closure of the Wellbeing Centre as a result of the pandemic, we have been able to continue delivering our services virtually over the phone, via Zoom, and with videos on our website.

Building local networks

We have also been looking at how we can build compassionate communities and have set up a couple of projects as a result.

Firstly, we started recruiting Community Support Volunteers who visit patients at home to offer respite to families or a friendly listening ear. In the last two years 176 patients have been supported by CSVs and their support has been incredibly beneficial in reducing isolation, loneliness and improving overall wellbeing.

In the wake of the pandemic, when volunteers were no longer able to visit people in their homes, we created a new Telephone Befriender role, where volunteers could continue to catch up with those they had befriended and offer a listening ear. We are also now working with carers and the bereaved, and there are currently 84 individuals who have a befriender.

We also set up our Community Links project which aims to create a vibrant network of community groups and organisations across our catchment area. These groups may provide services and activities that our patients and families could benefit from, and they can share our volunteering opportunities and fundraising events too.

There are now over 60 Community Links with a diverse mix of health and support links, community groups, groups supporting the homeless and vulnerably housed, and social groups/associations.

In a recent blog post, Sussex Community Development Association (SCDA) Hailsham – one of the first organisations to join the project – said: ‘It’s important for organisations to build relationships and work together as the continuous sharing of services is invaluable when supporting our community. This is why we are delighted to be part of the Community Link Project.’

Thank you to those who have helped make this possible

There are a number of Trusts and Foundations we have to thank who have helped to make this all possible:

  • Sussex Masonic Foundation – donated two cars, one for the Community Nursing Team and the other for our Therapies Team.

  • Rotherwick Foundation (Elite Hotels) - gifted three years of grants for the Closer to You project.

  • Brewers Foundation – provided the yearly funding for the Closer to You nursing costs.

  • Hospital Saturday Fund – gave funding towards our Community Occupational Therapist, Jennie.

  • Albert Hunt Trust – also gave funding towards our Community Occupational Therapist, Jennie, and towards Complementary Therapy in the community.

  • February Foundation – gifted nursing salaries.

  • Lawson Trust – gifted the salaries of those who work as part of the Closer to You project.

  • National Lottery – funded the Community Support Volunteer befriending service and the Community Links project.

Going forward

Currently, our Community Nursing Team work from 8.30am to 5pm, seven days a week, but there is a greater demand for our services. As we continue working towards our ‘Closer to You’ goals, we will be expanding our home-nursing service in the coming months so that our Nurses can start earlier and finish later each day. This will mean that we can be there when needed, early in the morning and at the end of the day, making sure patients’ medication is right, preventing unnecessary calls to 999 for an ambulance, and reducing loneliness at some of the hardest times of the day.

David Scott-Ralphs, St Wilfrid’s CEO, commented: ‘It has been wonderful to see how the hospice’s services have grown and developed under Closer to You. We are truly reaching into every corner of our territory and providing more of our services in people’s homes, as well as in our fantastic hospice building. I’m delighted that we are seeing more people with a range of life-limiting illnesses and that, alongside the work done by our specialist staff, we are building compassionate communities through the use of volunteers.

‘It has been a fantastic team effort and in our 40th Anniversary Year we are more committed than ever to keep reaching out to everyone who needs our support. Never has the hospice been more needed and it is thanks to the support of our communities that we can do this.'