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Caring for Cornwall

Words by Hannah Tapping

This year sees the post-pandemic regrouping and re-establishment of a charity whose work provides essential hospice care in the Duchy.

Best known for its hospices, St Julia’s in Hayle and Mount Edgcumbe in St Austell, the clinical teams at Cornwall Hospice Care look after those from the age of 18 who’re approaching the end of their lives. However, as Ally Hardman, Specialist Nursing Lead explains, this support also extends to the patient’s family, carers and friends and beyond: “Our hospices aren’t necessarily one-way streets; people don’t always come in to die. We’re here to support patients through their journey, making sure they live life to their full. We offer symptom control, rehabilitation, equipment and therapy to ensure people make the most of the time they’ve got. It’s valuable time when they can reach their individual life goals and make precious memories.”

2020-2021 saw a period of resilience and revival for the charity, and despite the pandemic rumbling on in 2021/22, it has been a busy financial year for Cornwall Hospice Care. Their key workers have continued to provide valuable services to those in need. Examples are numerous, but headline figures such as admitting 331 inpatients to the two hospices, 56% of whom were admitted from their own homes and 37% were able to return to their home or care home after treatment, are heartening. The charity’s two lymphoedema specialist practitioners held 1,258 appointments; two bereavement counsellors offered patient and family support equating to 1,387 hours; and the 24-hour advice line for healthcare professionals received 1,461 calls. All of these vital services require essential funding as Graham Clarke, Finance Director, explains: “The last financial year saw us add £1.1million to our reserves after four years of deficit results and that was thanks to a great performance from all our income generation activities. We strictly controlled our spending and we worked hard. The big success story was in our retail department where they raised over a million pounds profit that all goes to funding the care we provide to the people of Cornwall.”

Regrouping and re-establishing, the charity has emerged post-pandemic stronger and more determined than ever to provide the right care at the right time and in the right place for patients and their families and to find ways of funding that care. While some funding comes from an NHS grant, this only amounts to £1.06 million, representing just 17.3% of the £6.1million needed annually to keep the hospices open and services available. Graham continues: “The last few years have been extremely tough and when the pandemic started we didn’t know how we were going to fund the work of our Cornish charity. What’s been extraordinary is the support of our community who’ve continued to shop with us, donate goods, take part in fundraising activities and support our lottery. We can’t say a big enough thank you. Now we must try and prepare for the worst of the cost of living crisis, ensuring we find ways of securing the income we need so we are always here for those who need us.”

Just one of numerous examples of how funding can make a huge difference, is the introduction of new cuddle beds. At first glance they look like any other single patient bed, but the design allows for them to be extended from the side to make more room. “They’re brilliant pieces of equipment,” says Lou Ranford, Ward Sister at St Julia’s Hospice. “Our patients can share with a loved one to read, watch TV, just be together. We can then bring the bed back to its single form when we need to attend to the patient’s care. My fondest memory is of looking through the doorway of a patient’s room and seeing them with their partner and child on the bed laughing and joking.” The purchase of the cuddle beds was made with the generous support of a number of trust funders.

Collaborative working is something that is also hugely import at Cornwall Hospice Care, as Paul Brinsley, Chief Executive, explains: “Our resilience and adaptability have continued to be key to our success and now we’re working on vital collaborations with the new Integrated Care Board and other partner organisations. We’ve signed an agreement with the Royal College of Nursing, a superb example of how working together will benefit the wider care community in our county. In fact, our work in raising the standards of care by supporting our clinical colleagues, is growing and I’m very proud of this. That pride also extends to all other departments in our charity. Every member of our one team has joined the collective battle to survive the pandemic and together we’ve achieved this.”

It takes special people to make the hospices the caring places they are. Nurses, doctors, housekeepers, administrators and chefs all work together for the benefit of the patients and their families. Some go even further, fundraising for the charity themselves – Dr Angela Netherwood took part in the charity’s half marathon Run Falmouth in March and the Coast and Clay Sportive in July and is also taking part in the London Marathon to raise further funds. “Seeing first-hand the difference we make to the lives of our patients and our families, makes me even more determined that we have the funding we need to keep our beds open. When I speak to a GP looking after a patient in the community who could really benefit from a stay with us, I want to be able to ‘yes, we have a bed available for them,” comments Angela.

Alongside the nurses and doctors, the charity has highly qualified therapy teams which include occupational therapists and physiotherapists who offer a range of help; they’re involved with symptom management, providing techniques to cope with breathlessness, pain control, nausea, relaxation and movement. Gina Starnes, Director of Clinical Services, expands on the value of having these teams: “they can spend time indulging a person with a hand and foot massage and they’re also key to preparing a patient for discharge, visiting homes to ensure equipment is available and that family members and friends are prepared to continue with the care. The therapists will also go through difficult conversations, helping patients and those close to them, to prepare for the reality of a situation. They’ll discuss how to cope with a loved one who’s confined to bed or a wheelchair and they’ll talk to patients about advance care planning, ensuring the person has been able to express what they want.”

“Our therapy team can make things happen,” adds Ally. “If a patient wants to go to the beach or the theatre for instance, they’ll do everything they can to organise the trip or wish.” It was one such wish that saw the whole team at St Julia’s Hospice enjoy the arrival of Luca, a horse whose owner was close to dying. “Even when she became ill, Liz would walk to sit with Luca because she thought her horse might be lonely,” says friend Rowena. “She would walk the one mile round trip twice a day and in flip flops because she found them the most comfortable footwear. When she became too poorly to walk, she would get a taxi to see Luca.” Liz, who’d fought cancer twice before was delighted when Luca was able to visit her in her final days at St Julia’s Hospice, a personal wish that was granted like so many others from patients living life to the end.

Cornwall Hospice Care has 25 shops, multiple donation centres and a variety of fundraising events happening across Cornwall throughout the year. Ways to donate, support or volunteer can be found on the website.


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