Hospices are required to measure performance as evidence in making a difference to the lives of the communities they serve and to use this data to improve service delivery. This demands workforce capacity and capability as well as sustainability in data collection processes. In an innovative approach, a hospice successfully widened the scope for volunteers within their organisation, by engaging them in data collection using the St Christopher’s Hospice Patient Priorities Measure (SKIPP), a validated outcome measure for use in specialist palliative care settings. SKIPP was piloted for 3 months across the day and inpatient unit. A project lead trained and managed volunteers in the agreed pilot process. Key clinical champions were identified in each department to support the volunteers administering the questionnaires and to discuss any emerging ‘surprise’ concerns requiring a more immediate clinical response. Supervision/support meetings were agreed monthly for volunteers, facilitated by the project lead. The volunteers were very committed, evidenced by the 82% rate of returned initial questionnaires. All trained volunteers remained with the programme and reported feeling very positive, valued and recognized for the life skills and experience they brought and for being able to contribute to hospice service evaluation. The pilot proved very successful as volunteer engagement limited the opportunity for bias through nurse ‘gate-keeping’ and reduced the need for the nursing capacity to undertake this additional work. The volunteer’s feedback contributed to refining the process for future use. The pilot was successful at two levels, SKIPP yielded valuable data to inform the hospice quality accounts and proved an effective tool in patient assessment and service evaluation. The positive results provided sound evidence that using volunteers in a more diverse way within a hospice can yield greater engagement and role satisfaction for volunteers and add value to the organisation as a whole.
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