Right at this moment, our doctors, nurses and frontline staff are working hard to provide urgent care and support during this unprecedented time. People like Kate. 

Here at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, Kate is one of #OurHospiceHeroes. She’s working with care homes across Birmingham and Sandwell to ensure staff have the skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver end of life care to their residents. We caught up with her to find out more…

Hi Kate, can you tell us about your role at the Hospice?

Absolutely – my normal day-to-day role sees me leading the Hospice’s ‘Care Home Support Service’. As more people live longer and with a number of complex illnesses, we know that there will be an increase in the number of people living in care homes. That’s why we work in partnership with these organisations, to make sure staff have the skills, knowledge and confidence to provide vital end of life care themselves.

We do this by building and maintaining relationships with staff at care homes across Birmingham and Sandwell. An effective educational programme we run is called the ‘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. 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.

Even though we only launched this service about 18 months 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 good about this service is that it’s 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 their individual needs – ensuring we’re delivering the best possible service. By working together, we hope that more people can receive vital end of life care in a place of their choice.

How has your role changed during this difficult time?

My working life has changed dramatically during the Covid-19 crisis.

As people know from reading the news, care homes have been severely affected by COVID and tragically large numbers of their residents have died. As a result of this, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, has set up a new team to support care homes during this time and has asked the Hospice to come on board to provide our expertise. So our usual service has been paused and I’m now working in partnership with healthcare professionals from across Birmingham.

So my new role is working as a key member of the Enhanced Care Homes Support Team.  I provide advice and support to Advanced Nurse Practitioners who are visiting care home residents with a life-limiting diagnosis. I’m also supporting care home staff with symptom management, advance care planning (ACP), and anticipatory prescribing advice – the latter of which involves prescribing medicines that are commonly required to control symptoms in the last days of life. I feel immensely proud to be part of this crucial team, as we work together to ensure individuals living in care homes get the care they need, as well as support their families and loved ones too.

In addition to this new role, I’ve also taken on a small caseload of patients who are known to the Hospice and are living in a care home – providing hands on care to and support to them and their families.

So as you can see, current circumstances have seen my role change quite a bit. But what’s been really heart-warming to see, is healthcare professionals from different organisations across Birmingham coming together and adapting services as quickly as we can, to provide the very best care possible to patients and their families.

How is your role making a difference to people right now?

Ultimately, I hope the support and advice that I am able to give to Advanced Nurse Practitioners and care home staff means that people living in care homes feel more comfortable and well cared for at the end of life.

Why is hospice care so important?

Hospice care is important for so many reasons but in my role, I particularly see the difference it can make to the wider community. Staff at the Hospice have such a wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience in providing palliative and end of life care. It’s therefore wonderful to see us sharing this knowledge, to help improve and sustain standards of palliative care in other healthcare organisations, such as hospitals and care homes. This means that more people living with a life-limiting illness are able to receive the care and support they need.

It’s always been our goal at the Hospice to help educate other healthcare professionals in our field of work but now, more than ever, we feel there is a really urgent need to do this due to Covid-19.

Who’s keeping you company when you’re at work?

I’m mostly working at Moseley Hall Hospital where the Enhanced Care Homes Support Team is based.  The NHS staff on the team have been very friendly, welcoming and supportive.  They have all been relocated too and so we are all finding our feet together.  Although changes happen on a daily basis, it’s both exciting and fascinating to be part of a new service from the beginning.  We hope we to develop a sustainable service that makes a real difference to care home staff and volunteers but ultimately to the residents and their families.

I try and spend a day at the Hospice so I don’t lose touch and it always feels like coming home. Having the chance to see familiar staff and friends is wonderful although social disctancing means our working lives and contact are very different.

My husband Steve is a peripatetic music teacher in schools all over Birmingham, so he too has had to adapt his methods of working. Thankfully, on the few days I now work from home we’re keeping each other company and we often share tops tips for virtual meetings and new ways of working.

Our wonderful dog, Sukha, is keeping us busy too and we are thankful that we’re able to walk her in nearby parks. We also have some amazing neighbours who we communicate with distantly.

What’s your go-to quarantine boredom buster?

As I’ve increased my working hours to full time in response to the need, down time is precious. But when I am relaxing, I’m grateful to have a garden and sunshine. I’m also catching up on films, keeping up with my book club virtually and generally trying to avoid housework!

And finally…

I just think the way that everyone is pulling together, adapting and making changes in response to Covid-19 is eye-wateringly amazing and a real testament to what can be achieved.

Whilst all the clinical staff are incredible, I’d also like to thank all the wonderful support staff at the Hospice – from admin to facilities, IT to fundraising, and so many others. Without them, none of the changes to the way we work and care for people could happen, so thank you.

Our frontline staff – including Kate – are #OurHospiceHeroes. They’re doing all they can to provide round-the-clock care on our Inpatient Unit, as well offering critical support in people’s homes, on the phone, and via digital consultations.

And it’s not just our patients who we’re supporting. We’re also working in partnership with local hospitals, GPs, District Nurses, care homes and more to ensure more people get the care they deserve during this uncertain time.

But heartbreakingly, at a time when people desperately need our services, we’re losing out on crucial funds. We’ve had to postpone fundraising events, community activities and corporate partnerships, as well as temporarily close the doors to all 17 of our charity shops. But our care hasn’t stopped.

If you can help more people get the care and support they need, please make a donation or take on a virtual challenge here. Whatever you choose to do, you will be helping someone across Birmingham and Sandwell to receive the support they desperately need during these uncertain times.

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