Researchers in the east of England joined forces with hospices to deliver a timely community project during the pandemic.
They won the national Hospice UK Award 2021 for Innovation in Dying Matters.
The NIHR ARC East of England (ARC EoE) and University of East Anglia (UEA) partnered with St Elizabeth Hospice, St Helena Hospice and St Nicholas Hospice Care, and the Pear Tree Centre to establish a regional network to help people learn about palliative and end of life care in their communities.
Previously working in isolation, the partner organisations shared skills and ideas on ways of working across many areas, such as volunteering, clinical care as well as emotional and wellbeing support services, to support communities through a wider network.
They provided online workshops during Dying Matters Week 2021 designed to enhance ‘death literacy’ and provide practical skills, knowledge and understanding of options and support available for palliative and end of life care. The diary of events was coordinated by the Compassionate Communities East website, which is a collaborative hub providing useful information and resources for end of life care and support.
“We were delighted to win the award which recognises the clear benefits of partnering with hospices to improve death literacy at a community level.
This collaborative project has established a solid foundation to work together across our Integrated Care Systems in the region.”
The programme involved over 300 members of the public, and healthcare staff from around the UK and Ireland, joining virtual events which demystified and offered expert guidance around the subjects of death, dying and bereavement.
The workshops all received positive feedback, with 93% of attendees feeling more confident to talk about end of life, loss or bereavement, and 85% of attendees felt their knowledge of how to plan for end of life had increased as a result of the project.
One attendee said: “Thank you for running such a lovely session. Considering the subject, I found it really comfortable to be a part of and it was nice to breakout into rooms for smaller conversations too. It's certainly given me a lot to think about, which will start a process of thinking about how I can support others, as well as making decisions about my future planning.”
This series of events were part of the ARC EoE Compassionate Communities project led by Dr Guy Peryer working with NHS England’s improvement programme for end of life care, to ensure that ‘Each Community is Prepared to Help’. By engaging with local stakeholders, including community groups and volunteers, the project aims to identify sustainable approaches to meet the rapidly expanding demand for end-of-life care closer to home.
Last month, Dr Peryer and the Pear Tree Centre co-produced a ‘Remembrance Hearts’ event for World Compassionate Communities Day on 1 November. The Halesworth Men’s Shed made 150 small wooden hearts that were decorated by children at Trowse Primary School in Norwich to express feelings of loss.
This short film showcases the event with a gallery of the hearts.
The project team also took part in an intergenerational memorial event for World Compassionate Communities Day, where the Kinda Forest School held a service in the woods and activities throughout the day, inclusive of all faiths and beliefs to help people think about ‘letting go’ and how to build a compassionate community. The day ended with a poignant poem written by Su Squire, a member of the regional Community of Practice. Click to download and read the poem in full below.