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Hospice UK to open its first office in Northern Ireland

18 December 2017

Hospice UK will open its first office in Belfast in January and its team there will deliver a new programme to develop Project ECHO knowledge networks across Northern Ireland.

Project ECHO is a lifelong learning and guided practice model that revolutionises medical education and clinical team support.

ECHO - which stands for Extension of Community Healthcare Outcomes - was originally developed at the University of New Mexico, in the US.

At the heart of the ECHO model are its hub-and-spoke knowledge-sharing networks. These networks are supported to form ‘communities of practice’ which share knowledge and expertise. A trained facilitator, who is based at a hub, guides their virtual meetings, with the support of a dedicated administration and IT team.

The Northern Ireland team will focus on delivering the Northern Ireland ECHO programme and supporting Project ECHO’s delivery across the UK on behalf of Hospice UK.

This work builds on the leadership of Northern Ireland Hospice, which first developed an ECHO programme, establishing over 25 ECHOs, many of which related to end of life care.

The Belfast team will be led by Professor Max Watson, an eminent palliative care clinician and academic who joined Hospice UK in May of this year and leads its work on Project ECHO.

Professor Watson piloted the use of ECHO in Northern Ireland in 2014, when he was Medical Director of the Northern Ireland Hospice, and has led and promoted the growth of ECHO networks in the UK and Europe.

He has championed of the use of ECHO technology in Northern Ireland as a means of ‘democratising medical knowledge’, improving the delivery of palliative care in rural areas and expanding its reach to more people who need this form of care.

Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said:

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Hospice UK and the hospice care sector.

“We are very grateful to the Northern Ireland Hospice for their pioneering work on Project ECHO and are committed to building on what they have achieved.

“We are very much looking forward to working with all hospices and other providers in Northern Ireland to enable Project ECHO to deliver better care to more people through the sharing of knowledge and expertise.”

Northern Ireland Hospice Chief Executive, Heather Weir, added:

"In 2014 Northern Ireland Hospice was delighted to lead the implementation of Project ECHO in NI through a pilot with our community nursing team and to be the inaugural Superhub in Europe, offering training in the model for organisations across the continent. In addition to immersion training for other hospices, NI Hospice also delivered a dedicated programme in partnership with the Health and Social Care Board with five networks in 2015, extending to 21 multidisciplinary networks by 2017.

"NI Hospice is delighted that Hospice UK have embraced this valuable knowledge transfer model in continued support of  the enhancement of healthcare outcomes."

For more information visit Project ECHO

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