We talk to two of our longest serving members of staff about the way our care has evolved:
Sue Varvel, Director of Nursing and Clinical Services
Sue joined Iain Rennie Hospice at Home 27 years ago working as a nurse alongside the five original nurses. She has played a major part in the development of the Hospice at Home service over the years and has been instrumental in sharing our model of care with other organisations throughout the country. She is currently Chair of the National Association for Hospice at Home.
"Providing 24 hour support has always been such an important part of what we do. It is during those 'out of hours' times at night and at the weekends that our patients and their carers feel most vulnerable and I’m very proud that despite the huge increases in the numbers of patients we are caring for, that support is still there.
"It was an honour to work with the five original nurses who pioneered Hospice at Home care and even though there have been many changes over the years, we have always stayed true to their original vision for the organisation.
"Through the years we have overcome many hurdles and refined the model of care which now sees us offering 24 hour responsive care to all our Hospice at Home patients delivered by nurses who work on one of three shifts in a 24 hour period. We are highly regarded as leaders in Hospice at Home across the country and it has been a pleasure to work with other hospice organisations nationally to help bring our comprehensive care to even more people.
"We have responded to many changes to other services. For example, GPs rarely visit patients today, so we are training some of our nurses to prescribe medication to give a better standard of care for our patients. It has also been important to respond to changes in patient needs and we are managing and developing our day services at Grove House to make sure our care reflects these closely.
"This is set to be the pattern for the future too. With further reductions likely in statutory services and rising patient numbers, it is vital that we work closely with other service providers to maximise every resource available to us so that together we can ensure top quality patient care and support for families.
"On a personal note, I have loved caring for so many wonderful people and their families and the cycle of the charitable world never ceases to amaze me. Time after time I see families take the help they need and then give back as much as they can so that everyone can benefit in the future. It is truly inspirational to us all."
Joan Follett, Nursing Services Manager at Grove House
Joan joined the organisation in 1994 as a staff nurse when Grove House first opened as the Macmillan Runcie Day Hospice. She has been closely involved in developing the Day services over the years and is passionate about the care we offer to patients right from the time of diagnosis.
"Day hospices originally came about during the 1960s primarily to give patients a day out and carers a day off and offering patients the opportunity to come together and support each other.
"Like all other day hospices at the time, when the Macmillan Runcie Day Hospice opened in 1994 it was set up as a social model. The peer support was so important to those who attended with the emphasis on helping to improve the quality of life and living life.
"Over time we became aware that needs were changing and we wanted to be sure that we could offer care for all who needed it. In 1998 we set up Cancer the Next Step, an innovative course and one of the first in the country to support younger people who had primary cancer.
"We also saw that there were patients who didn’t necessarily need to come into Day Hospice for a whole day, but who needed more specific and individualised support and following a review of our services in 1999 introduced out-patient clinics in response to these changing needs.
"Today these continue to run alongside the Day Hospice and while the social support continues to be an extremely important element within the Day Hospice, it is now a nurse-led service providing holistic care and support to patients by highly trained nurses. Our care is also extended to family members.
"In 2009, clinical integration with Iain Rennie Hospice at Home saw 24 hour Hospice at Home care being added to the services on offer in St Albans and Harpenden. This was an important element as it meant that we were now able to provide specialist care to our patients both during the day and night.
"Last year we conducted another service review and identified that some patients wanted a more flexible and easy accessible service. So currently we now also offer a weekly Drop-In service and individual classes such as Yoga and Tai Chi and as a result are meeting the needs of far more people.
"Today, our Hospice Day Care aims to encourage self-management and to help give patients coping strategies so they can have true choice about their care. Our 24/7 responsive Hospice at Home care is also there if patients need extra support out of hours.
"Like Sue, I feel privileged to be part of this organisation offering such care to our patients and families and whether caring for patients at Grove House or in their own homes, the philosophy remains the same – respecting patient choice, the quality of life and living life."
With rising population figures and the fact that the number of over 75s is predicted to double in the next 30 years, the support of our local community will be vital if we are to continue caring for local patients and families.
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