Prospect Hospice team helps patients make most of every day

January 2021


If you’re running a hospice during a pandemic, what do you do when most of your patients, their loved ones and others in the community can’t come into your hospice building anymore? Simple, say the end-of-life care specialists at Prospect Hospice. You take the hospice out into the community instead…

Many people suppose that Prospect Hospice is a building in Wroughton where patients in the late stages of a life-limiting illness are cared for, given pain relief and made comfortable at the end of their life.

But those who have been cared for by Prospect Hospice say that, though important, this is just a small part of what Prospect Hospice is about. Prospect Hospice also treats patients in their own homes, teaching them how to manage physical symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, and functional deterioration. The charity also addresses their emotional needs offering community nurse specialists support, occupational therapy and family therapy, and arranging respite visits so family members can take a break from caring duties.

Mel Buckley is the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) team leader with Prospect Hospice’s Single Point of Contact team – the team that takes all referrals, provides a telephone consultation to triage and assesses patient needs so they can direct a patient to the specialists who can help them manage their medical, emotional or practical issues.  The Single Point of Contact (SPoC) aspect is important. It means that patients don’t have to navigate the system themselves, and important decisions can be made without delays. So it’s quick, efficient and also extremely patient-centred, ensuring patients, families and their loved ones get the right service at the right time to meet their needs.

“When people are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, they suddenly find themselves with a timetable of appointments, for tests, scans and treatment, often at speed with little reprieve,” says Mel.

“When treatment for managing or curing life-limiting illnesses is no longer working, patients and families can lose hope. We help them to foster hope in a different direction. Hope can be about living well for as long as possible, and hope becomes about improving and optimising their quality of life.

“When patients are referred to us, things change, and now everything is at their pace. We can help patients regain control of their lives, so they have choice in how and where they wish to be cared for, how they live and how they die.  By understanding what matters most to our patients, capturing their wishes and agreeing a plan with them we can help patients get the best out of each day, balancing their energy levels so they can achieve their goals and priorities.”

The pandemic has changed the way everyone in the team has had to work, but Mel says in some ways it has created new opportunities.

“When lockdown begun our inpatient staff were redeployed to other teams to help care for more people in their own homes. Some of these staff joined the Single Point of Care. This meant we could extend our hours from eight hours a day Monday to Friday to 13 hours a day, seven days a week, provide expert palliative care advice to patients and health care professionals over the phone and use video consultations too, which provides a more personal connection with patients.

“We know that Covid-19 won’t go away quickly, so the way that the whole team has and continues to embrace working differently has been phenomenal.  We have all joined together to make sure patients are cared for, are not isolated, and have the information and tools they need to remain in control.

“Most of all, we’ve been able to demystify what Prospect Hospice is. It’s not just a building, it’s a relationship patients can have with specialists they know and trust – it’s part of the fabric of our community.”

Mel Buckley

What made you go into end-of-life care?

Fate, chance, destiny…. When I was in senior school my grandfather was in Prospect Hospice which was then situated in the Victoria Hospital on Okus Road, and I used to slip out of school and visit him at lunchtime. I hadn’t told my family what I was doing, and they only heard about it when the head of my house, Mr Nichols, raised it and asked why I was always disappearing and late back from lunch.

That must have had an impact on me, and though I first became an intensive care nurse, whilst living in Cornwall I moved over to a hospice there, and loved the work. It reminded me why I had come into nursing.  When I applied to work at Prospect Hospice, the nurse who interviewed me recognized me from my lunchtime visits to my grandfather!

I have the best job in the world. I get the gift of meeting amazing people, listen to stories of their lives, and I am able to walk alongside them at the most difficult of times and hopefully help to make a difference. Bearing witness is very special, in fact it’s a privilege.  How someone dies lives on for those who are left behind – I know this personally, and professionally, so wanting to help someone have a good death feels like the most natural thing in the world to me.  You only get one chance to get it right and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I am where I’m meant to be.”


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