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Third of beds at hospice to shut by 2016

Future plan is to provide more patient care in the home, says chief executive

LOSING BEDS: Canterbury Pilgrims Hospce and, inset, chief executive Steve Auty
LOSING BEDS: Canterbury Pilgrims Hospice and, inset, chief executive Steve Auty

A THIRD of the inpatient beds at Pilgrims Hospice will shut in the next two years – but more could be provided in future. News of the closure was broken to staff and volunteers last week and managers said the 16-bed inpatient unit at the Canterbury hospice would be mothballed. But they hinted that new partnerships with NHS providers could mean more beds could be opened in the future. Chief executive Steve Auty said:

“We are workIng to develop partnerships with other providers of inpatient care across East Kent, but in particular Canterbury. This could include new inpatient facilities in Canterbury developed in partnership with other providers, but we cannot make promises at this stage. We are committed and passionate about providing this care. Our strategy will allow us to continue to do that as well as providing more care to people who are currently not receiving it.”

The changes are part of a future strategy for the charity which also runs hospices in Ashford and Thanet as well as the hospice at home service and other outreach programmes.


It was developed by senior doctors and discussed with groups of staff during the last year and endorsed by the board of trustees in April. At the moment, almost 45 per cent of patients are cared for in their own homes and Mr Auty said hospice care was not about buildings but delivering care where people needed it. He said the changes were necessary to allow the charity to continue into the future, with numbers of patients expected to increase. Mr Auty who has worked at the hospice for nine years, said:

“There are many more people who will die in east Kent than we, the hospice, can ever cope with. We want to work with health and social care professionals to improve end of life care, and we want to educate and develop those professionals and share best practice with them. Irrespective of illness we will stay true to our holistic way of doing things by caring for people’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs at the most vulnerable times.”

Officials said the city site was the oldest and least practical – Ashford and Thanet were both purpose-built and are more modern. A Department of Health grant to refurbish the buildings means it will be usable until 2016, according to the board of trustees, but not beyond then. But Mr Auty insisted they were not giving up on the Canterbury site. He said:

“Changes to the Canterbury site are essential. It is not an option to do nothing as that would stop us providing better more responsive and accessible care to more people. We understand that many people in Canterbury are extremely anxious about how this will affect their access to hospice care, and this is something that we have thought about at great length, and discussed with over 50 staff and volunteers as well as seeking the agreement of all our trustees and our founder, Ann Robertson. Canterbury will continue to be our centre for education and training facilities. Day hospice services will continue until at least 2016 and potentially for longer. If they do move, equivalent or better services and care will be provided in the area.”

Hospital bosses confirmed they were keen to work with Pilgrims Hospice in the future. Stuart Bain, chief executive of the East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, said:

“EKHUFT looks forward to exploring opportunities to work with Pilgrims Hospice to improve patients’ access to services across east Kent.”

Founder backs change at unit

CHANGE: Ann Robertson
CHANGE: Ann Robertson

HOSPICE founder Ann Robertson supports the boards decision to shut the inpatient unit at Canterbury, according to officials. She opened first the Canterbury centre then Thanet and Ashford, achieving her aim of hospice care being available within a 30 minute drive of everyone in east Kent. The Canterbury centre was opened in June 1982 by the Queen Mother and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012. Chief executive Steve Auty said:

“Ann believes the hospice movement has to change or risk withering on the vine. Like Dame Cicely Saunders who founded the hospice movement, Ann Robertson has always believed that hospice care should be practiced in man settings, not just in specialist inpatient units.”

He said the changes would still mean hospice care would be available within a 35 minute drive of everyone in east Kent, and closer for many people because they could be cared for at home. The changes will also see the charity’s name become Pilgrims Hospice rather than Pilgrims Hospices, because the team’s vision is the one hospice working on many sites.

Volunteers vital to success

SUPPORT: Fundraising such as the cycle challenge is vital to the hospice’s success
SUPPORT: Fundraising such as the cycle challenge is vital to the hospice’s success

VOLUNTEERS and fundraisers are vital to the continuing success of the Pilgrims Hospice, chief executive Steve Auty has said. He appealed to people to continue to support the charity, which needs £11 million a year to run. The changes will cost £500,000 over three years. He said:

“We still need people’s support to keep going even though we will be operating in a different way. It is an emotional time for everybody. But the clarity of what we want to do in the future makes so much sense. Hospice care is a philosophy of care, it involves education, training and research. Ultimately it is not about buildings it is about the quality of care and we are still going to do that.”

Volunteers who he on the inpatient ward will no longer be required but Mr Auty said he hoped they would take up new roles.

Changes to free managers from medical duties

VISION: Dr Claire Butler
VISION: Dr Claire Butler

MANAGERS will be going back to their roots as pert of changes to hospice care in east Kent. Future plans for the Pilgrims Hospice, including shutting the inpatient unit at Canterbury, merging staff into one team and freeing up managers to get beck to medical duties. Medical director Dr Claire Butler is leading the changes, which also include a central hub dealing with all referrals, rather than individual stall at each of the three hospices. Dr Butler said:

“I am looking forward with great enthusiasm to working with our staff, volunteers, supporters, members of the community and other providers of care to deliver the vision that our new strategy sets out. Pilgrims Hospice has grown and adapted since its beginnings in the early 1980s and will continue to do so in new and innovative ways, aiming to serve all the people of east Kent who can benefit from our care and support.”

Hospice chief executive Steve Auty said the change would be gradual and phased and should result in few, if any, compulsory redundancies. He said:

“We need to be more efficient so we can better focus our funding on providing morn of our expert care to patients, families and carers. We need to spring resources from within the organisation and when I say resources I mean our clinicians, the people who provide care. We believe that it can be done with fewer beds end we will be providing more care that will be better for more patients, in places where they want to receive it. People who at the moment have management as part of their role will be delivering care.”

Several new roles will be created as part of the changes. including an associate director of education and development, a volunteer development manager and a database manager responsible for improving relationships with supporters. Volunteers who want to will be trained to help the hospice at home team with patient care.

Patient home care service now to increase

ALMOST half of Pilgrims Hospices patients we already cared for at home, and that will increase after the Canterbury inpatient unit shuts. The 16 beds will be mothballed, with three due to be taken out of use this year and another three by April next year. Patients who need to be admitted will have to go to the Margate or Ashford hospices instead and there will be no inpatient respite care. Chief executive Steve Auty said:

“Nationally morr care is going into the community and that is very consistent with what we intend doing. So many people think that hospice care is about the last few days of life in a hospice bed. The services we offer we much broader than this — for example our outreach groups help patients to manage their conditions better access — help and provide support from people who are in a similar position. Through outreach, patients, their carers and their families can receive specialist nursing advice about their conditions as well as counseling, and complementary therapies led by hospice professionals.”

The charity already runs outreach centres in Dover, Herne Bay, Faversham and Deal and on Friday opined a new one in Folkestone that will eventually be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For the moment it runs five days a week. Mr Auty added:

“In the future, the care looks like our Hospice at Home team now with trained nurses helping them.”

Nicole La Prevost, who leads the Hospice at Home team, said:

“We will still be offering inpatient beds a choice to those who need them from across east Kent, but often we find in our work that until patients experience Hospice at Home they don’t realise how much care can be given by our team and how much support we offer their families – part of our strategy will be about increasing equity of access to this service and allowing people to make this choice earlier.”

As well as Hospice at Home, outreach sessions run at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Hampton Pier Avenue, Herne Bay on Mondays 9.45am to noon, and at Faversham Community Health Centre, Bank Street, Faversham on Tuesdays 9.15am-11.45am. Patients can be referred by their GP or other healthcare professionals.
• For more information on the hospice, visit www.pilgrimshospices.org

Herne Bay Times, May 14th 2014

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