This week, from Monday 5th to Sunday 11th October, we are celebrating Hospice Care Week. The theme this year is ‘This is what it takes’, raising awareness of what it takes for over 200 hospices in the UK to provide end of life care. It is also a chance to celebrate the hard work of hospice staff and volunteers who help to make it happen.

Our Chief Executive David Scott-Ralphs shares what it takes to provide the care and support that St Wilfrid’s gives, especially through the coronavirus pandemic.

The last six months have demonstrated the need for and value of hospice care like never before.

‘At St Wilfrid’s Hospice, we have played our part to the full in supporting the local healthcare system during the pandemic period, providing expert care to an increased number of patients (around 1,200 since March - up 15%) and support also to families. This has been provided in the hospice and in the community through our team of Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, Healthcare Assistants and Care Assistants, as well as our patient and family support team of Counsellors, Social and Spiritual Support workers. Even at the height of the pandemic, we never stopped visiting patients in the community and home visits this year have been higher than ever. Our 24/7 Nurse Line has also taken more calls than ever before and co-ordinated support out of hours.

‘It isn’t, however, just about the Clinical teams. It also takes a great back up team to ensure that we can function well as an organisation. This means specialists in Finance, HR, Fundraising, Retail, Communications, Volunteer Management, Facilities Management and Catering – the list is extensive. One of the most important roles in the hospice is the one fulfilled by our team of Housekeepers and Facilities Officers, particularly during this current period when infection prevention and control has been even more vital. Our Fundraisers have kept going too, even though our programme has been massively disrupted.

‘To supplement our staff team of just over 200, we have over 600 volunteers in normal times, who give their time as Hosts, Befrienders, Drivers, Gardeners (under the guidance of our amazing Head Gardener Kevin), Shop Assistants, Counsellors, Trustees, and so on. It’s a huge team effort, with everyone on the same team. As a result of Covid-19, the majority of our volunteers had to shield, but we were left with a core team who went above and beyond to plug the gaps. Non-clinical staff members also lent a hand as cleaners, meal servers and in the laundry.

‘Covid-19 has of course meant having to adapt quickly to new ways of working. We had to close our Wellbeing Centre and restrict visitors, but our support was given in other ways, via telephone, video call and online groups. We were able to extend our community befriending by phone and video, using some of the hospice volunteers who were forced to shield, and we have also extended our counselling support to the whole community, beyond those directly linked to the hospice. Most of our administrative staff have had to adapt to home working and this has continued for at least part of the working week.

‘I’ve been at the helm at St Wilfrid’s for four years and from day one it’s been a privilege to be here, serving our local community. We have an amazing team and I’m so grateful for everything that our employees and volunteers give to help people live well at the end of their lives.’

If you would like to find out more about Hospice Care Week and the work that Hospice UK does, please visit their website here.