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Ashgate Hospice is calling for the urgent support of the community as the charity expects to be under increased pressure this winter due to coronavirus and winter flu circulating at the same time.
The hospice is asking the community to support its Winter Appeal and help it to get through the difficult months ahead – ensuring the hospice can continue to provide compassionate end of life care at a crucial time and support the wider health system as it did last year.
Hayley Wardle, Director of Quality and Patient Care at Ashgate Hospice, said that the charity is experiencing a rise in demand for its services and that they were once again working closely with Chesterfield Royal Hospital and other health care organisations to relieve the pressure on hospital beds and in the community.
“Without question demand for the hospice’s services is set to continue to increase and that will undoubtedly lead to greater pressures on our staff and volunteers who are still adhering to strict infection prevention measures whether working in the hospice or out in the wider community.
“It may feel like the world is ‘back to normal’ but COVID-19 is still very much a threat to the vulnerable people in our care, many of whom have suppressed immune systems from either diagnosis or treatment.”
“Staff and volunteers continue with regular COVID-19 testing, PPE is still being worn, visitor numbers are restricted, and everyone is temperature checked upon arrival.”
The charity, which recently won a prestigious Outstanding Contribution to Infection Prevention and Control award from the Royal College of Nursing, is urging people to continue to take sensible precautions and follow COVID guidance to help protect people in the community who are shielding or at higher risk from infection including Ashgate’s own patients.
Long term funding still uncertain
Meanwhile the pandemic has laid bare the fragility of the way in which end of life care is funded. While more funding has been announced by the Government through increases in tax contributions for the NHS, Ashgate is a not an NHS hospice and is not in line for extra funds.
A long-term solution has yet to be found. Last year the Government offered one off payments to help plug the gap, but no additional funding for hospices has been announced for this winter.
Hayley said: “We will be relying on the generosity of our local community to help fund crucial end of life care and services through another difficult winter. We hope people will support our Winter Appeal and give what they can.
”Currently, less than one third of Ashgate’s services are funded through local health budgets with the charity needing to raise £7 million a year to continue to provide its care.”
Relieving the pressure on local hospitals
Ashgate is continuing to work closely with local healthcare providers as it works to relieve the pressure on the local hospitals by reducing admissions and freeing up hospital beds.
The charity has also committed to doing everything it can to avoid pausing its services to deploy frontline staff elsewhere, as the hospice did last year.
This is as Ashgate is committed to keeping all hospice services open and running so that it can support patients and families at all stages of their diagnosis.
Hayley added: “This really will be a challenging winter; it may feel like the world has returned to normal but for the most vulnerable in our community that simply isn’t the case.
“That is why we are asking our local community to support us through one of the toughest times in over 30 years, so that we can be there for those who need us most.
“Donations to the hospice this winter will go towards helping people to face the end of their life free from pain and discomfort and will also help take the pressure off our local hospitals this winter.”
Sara’s story: Ashgate needs support this winter so it can be there for families like Sara’s
Sara Pauley, whose father, Alan Slinn’s wish was to die at home surrounded by his family, pays testament to Ashgate’s “exceptional” community team who made his wish a reality.
She said: “Our lives changed so much when my dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. When we found out his illness was terminal it was heart-breaking, but Ashgate Hospice took the weight off our shoulders and allowed us to focus on spending time with him.
“We didn’t feel like we were on a conveyor belt like is often the case in a hospital; we were made to feel so special, they just had so much time for our whole family and were there right until the end.
“I remember I was with my dad the night before he died. He was very agitated and uncomfortable, but they came out and made sure he was settled. They were so thorough, and we couldn’t have asked for more. Ashgate just wanted him to have the best quality of life, regardless of how long he had left.”