Palliative Care team celebrate 30th birthday

It was 30 years ago this month that our hospital launched its Palliative Care service.

In the beginning the team was formed by just a nurse, Sandra Winterborn, who was funded by Macmillan Cancer Support; with no in house medical support help was received from Dr Jenny Blyth, who was based at Priscilla Bacon Lodge.

Between 1992 and 2004 the number of nurses increased, including in 1996 when Anna Farrar joined the team.

Anna remains in the team today, having recently retired and returned on a part time basis.

Nicola Holtom became the first in house Palliative Consultant in 2004, and it was under her direction that the team grew. When she retired in 2020 Caroline Barry took the helm as Service Director further developing the services the team offer.

Julie Noble, Lead Nurse for Specialist Palliative Care, has worked in the team for almost half of the time it has existed at our hospital.

“There’s a lot of experience in our team. I joined 14 years ago,” said Julie, “and many of the nurses have been with the team for several years. For many years we worked with only one consultant. We have seen our consultant body grow from one consultant to four supported by a registrar and two staff grade doctors.

“Many things have changed through the years, now we see many more patients and we’re proud to have received an “Outstanding” CQC rating in 2020.

“We worked through Covid-19 delivering care to patients with and without Covid. More recently we have developed our breathlessness service and incorporated a psychologist into our team.”

The team also have Palliative Care Educators, who deliver education around end-of-life care both on the wards and more formally in classroom sessions.

The team are also encouraging all nurses to complete the “End-of-Life training Passport” to ensure everyone is prepared to care in a confident, compassionate and competent way.

The team are also taking a more proactive role in discharging, focusing on those patients who require fast track discharge because they are at end of their life. This is thanks to the introduction of a Palliative Care Discharge Co-Ordinator and Case Worker.

“In the future we’d like to develop a more nurses-led service for patients who are at the end of their life,” added Julie. “In 2017 we were seeing only 17% of patients who were dying, now we’re up to 60%.

“We know we still need to work to improve this aspect of our care as well as our discharge processes: making sure people are transferred to their preferred place of care to spend their last days in as seamless way as possible.

“The consultants are also busy developing the service by working more closely with other specialities to provide best support to more non-cancer as well as cancer patients.”

Back to News