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Community joins forces with hospice to address needs of population

Author: Leila Hawkins
05 July 2017

The village of South Petherton in Somerset has teamed up with St Margaret’s Hospice to support the local population in the face of growing pressures on the health and social care services.

South Petherton has just over 4,000 people and 30 per cent are aged 65 or older. As the number of elderly people continues to rise and funding for the health and social care sectors declines, the village decided it needed its own response.

Together with the local Medical Centre and other health organisations, the locals founded South Petherton Community Partnership, creating and funding key job roles including a Village Agent and health coaches who work with micro providers to help people stay well and independent in their own homes.

They have now teamed up with St. Margaret's Hospice, who provide palliative care across Somerset. The hospice is studying how the project can be used as a model for the way its services are delivered in the community in the future. This could include linking the Village Agent to the hospice advice team and referral centre for specialist support.

Ann Lee, Chief Executive of St Margaret's, said:

"The current model we have for people with a life-limiting condition being cared for in a hospital or in a hospice is just not sustainable. Co-ordinating complex care needs is the key to moving forward, helping to achieve more choice and providing care closer to home. We need a cultural shift that is underpinned by better use of technology, education and training and a greater reliance on the abilities of communities to deliver support, as is demonstrated by South Petherton.”

"It is not just about finding a dog walker. It is about identifying a whole network of support and care that can mobilise itself quickly and effectively, not tied up in red tape and procedure and waiting lists. Models such as South Petherton support the more vulnerable, keeping them in their own community, and reducing some of the pressure on the health services. "

The partnership researches the mobility of people in the village and how easy it is for them to access local services, as well as identifying areas to promote activities and groups. The aim is to help residents feel less isolated and more involved in their community, while reducing pressure on health and social care services and saving tax payers' money.

Paul Robathan, Parish Council Chair and one of the masterminds of the scheme, said:

"In some ways it takes us back to the traditional models of care that we experienced decades ago, when the village policeman was a familiar sight and the district nurse did not just know you, she probably delivered you, and might even nurse you in your final years.”

South Petherton now has seven micro providers in the community who have formed an informal co-operative that will continue to grow and provide flexible care and support to the community as and when they need them.

Increased reliance on home and community care and greater use of micro providers are two of the key findings identified by St Margaret's Hospice in its major review of the delivery of end of life care called Fit for Future.  It has also looked at how care provision needs to change to cope with increasing demand from people with complex problems such as dementia. The key challenges identified, apart from finance and rising demand, are maintaining quality, fractured services, accessibility, equality, and maintaining and growing the workforce, including volunteers.

For more information visit St Margaret’s Hospice

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