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“Hospices must work together to be heard”

Author: Eamonn O’Neal
12 March 2018

Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive of St Ann’s Hospice, writes about the importance of collaboration between hospices.

Charities have been in the news a lot in recent weeks and months, and not always for the right reasons.  As Chief Executive of a hospice – St Ann’s in Greater Manchester – I know, as we all do, of the importance of organisations across the third sector never losing sight of their core purpose and values; of always putting their benefactors first; of remaining thankful to the people who generously fund their work.

Charities, including hospices, should be humble enough to recognise that they can only exist thanks to the kind support of their donors.  But they should also be confident enough to raise their heads up to shout about their cause, and bang the drum when needed.  It is not a time to be timid.  All of the charities that do such great work right across the UK should ensure they remain loud and proud when it comes to raising awareness of the work they do, especially when there is so much public discussion taking place around the value and role of the third sector.

To enable us to be heard, collaboration and communication between hospices is key.  As a sector, we are good at sharing best practice, especially around our care.  But, we also need to tell the story better together.  We cannot work in isolation.  It is true that we all, rightly, have our own place in the communities we serve, and that we know the importance of understanding, nurturing and building on the relationship with the people in those communities. 

But, despite our own individual communities, we are also part of a wider hospice community that can only thrive if we push forward together with one voice.  The changing political, economic and healthcare landscapes demand it.  There is so much noise going on around us, that we need to break through together in order to be heard.

Between us we have many hundreds of years of experience in providing specialist care.  But, as we all know, many members of the general public are unaware of the vast range of ways we can support them.  They are unaware that hospices are more than just the buildings that we base ourselves in; that we are not purely providers of care at the very end of life; that we have a broad, specialist skills base that can help people with a wide variety of illnesses right from their point of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond; that our expertise reaches much further than all of that too.

Dispelling the myths of what hospice care is about is the holy grail for all of us.  In Greater Manchester, we have recognised that one hospice alone cannot do this with the same impact as hospices working together as one united group.  We have created the GM Hospices group, comprising seven adult hospices from across Greater Manchester (Bolton Hospice, St Ann’s, Wigan and Leigh, Dr Kershaw’s, Bury, Springhill and Willow Wood hospices) to strategically join together to have both discussions around commissioning and other services in the region, whilst also promoting the great work hospices do.

We are currently appointing a project manager who will work to put that one GM Hospice voice forward to the Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, to hopefully help influence and shape future end of life care plans.  Working together in this way complements our individuality as unique community charities, but also enables us to be heard as a unified voice for the benefit of all of our patients.

I am proud that we are forging such a collaborative force in Greater Manchester, and that this will hopefully help us to position hospice care as a priority in any plans for the devolved health care in our cities.  By doing this we can hopefully be heard more clearly, and can ultimately care for even more local people and their families – both now, and well into the future too.

For more information visit St Ann’s Hospice

See more articles in Opinion

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