St Barnabas House hospice: New Living Well service brings ‘living’ back to end-of-life care

A new project that is bringing ‘living’ back into end-of-life care has been developed at St Barnabas House hospice in Worthing as a result of Covid-19.

Having to adapt services and think differently during the pandemic helped staff realise the potential and reach more people than ever before.

The Living Well service has just been launched and the charity is forming new partnerships with other organisations to provide opportunities for patients to be themselves, to enjoy the things that make them the person they are.

Highdown Gardens is one of the new partners and the hospice’s new patrons, Margaret Bamford and Caroline Nicholls, hosted a reception there yesterday to celebrate the charity’s achievements and explore what the future holds for St Barnabas House.

St Barnabas House head of community services Ellie Hayter, patron Margaret Bamford, chief executive Ben Merrett and patron Caroline Nicholls with Highdown Gardens plant heritage expert Alex New at the hospice celebration. Picture: Steve Robards SR2107296

Ellie Hayter, head of community services, said: “The Living Well service is something that arose when we couldn’t provide the day hospice during Covid and we had to think about how we were going to do things differently.

“It is about looking ahead and supporting people to live well until they die. We want to do that in a different way to before and do it more collaboratively.”

She spoke about how a diagnosis can affect people and who they are as a person. She gave examples of a musician who wanted to hear an orchestra tuning up and others who might like gardening or walking.

Ellie said: “We want to help people find the ‘me’ and that can be really difficult. We are connecting with other people who can help you find ‘me’ and Highdown Gardens is one of those.

“We have to do that in a way that helps people feel safe on the days that they are not well. It is about letting other services know how to work with us. It is about us thinking outside all the things that St Barnabas does and opening up the boundaries to get people to the things that will make them them.

“We need lots of opportunities that are small, lots of ways of connecting people who feel excluded. It is really bringing back the living and life into end of life and it not being in St Barnabas.”

Ben Merrett, the hospice’s new chief executive, who has been in the post only three months, spoke about how well St Barnabas House had coped during the pandemic and of the dedication of the staff and volunteers during the past difficult months.

He said St Barnabas House was the only hospice in Sussex that remained open every day during the pandemic and at one point, it was the only one of seven to be taking in patients.

“We really did shine out of that rigour and dedication to keeping Covid out. The nurses at St Barnabas did not flinch at all, they just carried on doing their jobs.”

When he first started, he did an eight-hour shift with the nurses and spoke of the outstanding quality of care he witnessed.

He said: “I will never forget what I saw, the dedication and love between nurses and patients.”

Last year, the hospice directly cared for 2,000 people. Mr Merrett said when you compare that to the 43,000 cared for in the past 48 years, you see the numbers are growing and growing.

“At St Barnabas, we have all the skills and energy to cope with a wide range of end-of-life conditions,” he pointed out.

St Barnabas was one of the first hospices in the country to introduce a night-time nursing team and during the pandemic, it has not only helped more people in their own homes, it has strengthened the ITU in the hospice from 20 beds to 25.

High Sheriff of West Sussex Neil Hart, East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, Worthing mayor Lionel Harman, supporters and volunteers were among guests at the reception.

Margaret said: “It has been about celebrating freedom and celebrating our wonderful hospice. It is about being together and feeling grateful for the work it does.”