Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice is celebrating a successful launch of its ‘Six Steps for Care Homes Programme’ – an initiative which aims to empower care home staff to deliver end of life care to residents and their loved ones.

Designed to facilitate organisational change and support staff to develop their skills and knowledge, the programme is delivered by clinical nurse specialists from the Hospice and covers six vital steps in supporting residents who are living with life-limiting illness.

The steps cover topics such as: the importance of advance care planning (ACP); how to co-ordinate care with other health and social care providers; the skills needed to have difficult conversations with residents and their families; and the expertise to deliver high-quality care in the last days of life and after death.

Free of charge for all care homes, the programme is an effective way for staff to improve resident and family experience of end of life care as it can help reduce unnecessary and sometimes distressing hospital admissions; support individuals to live well with illness; and ensure that more residents can receive care in the comfort of their home.

In less than 12 months, the programme has proved hugely popular with care homes across Birmingham and Sandwell, with 30 organisations taking part and the Hospice hosting 111 training sessions. This could have had the potential to improve care for 1,200 residents, enabling them to live well with illness and to die in a place of their choosing and in comfort.

The Limes Care Home in West Heath ‘stepped on’ onto the programme in January, describing it as “outstanding support for staff”. Its director, Anita Kaur, said: “What’s really stood out about this programme is how ‘people-centred’ its approach is. It’s given our staff the confidence and skills to deliver holistic end of life care, ensuring that any residents who have a life-limiting illness are able to live well, in comfort and have their wishes and needs respected.

“The support we’ve received from the Hospice, both during our training and afterwards, has been tremendous. We have found the tools and documents incredibly useful and they’ve really worked for our staff. I would highly recommend other care homes – especially those whose residents might have terminal diagnosis – to take on this programme.”

Kate Palmer, care homes clinical nurse specialist at Birmingham St Mary’s, added: “As more people live longer and with a number of complex illnesses, we know that the number of people living in care homes will continue to rise significantly. That’s why we want to work in partnership with these organisations, to make sure staff have the skills, knowledge and confidence to provide vital end of life care.

“Even though we only launched our Six Steps for Care Homes Programme under a year ago, it’s been fantastic to see so many care homes ‘stepping on’ to receive our support – highlighting that there is a real need for this kind of training across the region. What’s particularly beneficial about this programme is that it is designed to be a two-way partnership. So whilst we are sharing our knowledge and skills, we also take on board feedback from care homes and tailor workshops to meet individual needs, ensuring we’re delivering the best possible service. By working together, we can help more people to receive vital end of life support in a place of their choice.”

The Six Steps for Care Homes Programme was originally developed and rolled out in the North West by the NHS. In addition to delivering the programme, the care homes support team at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice has also established a forum for similar teams across the UK to share best practice and offer peer support. The Hospice has also started to facilitate a forum for care homes staff across the city which meets regularly, providing an additional support network for them.

If you work at a care home and would like to find out more about Birmingham St Mary’s Six Steps for Care Homes Programme, please contact Kate Palmer or Becky Brown at kate.palmer@birminghamhospice.org.uk or call 0121 752 8798.

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