Background Newham has one of the highest needs for palliative care services for the whole of London. Palliative patients in Newham are served by St Joseph’s Hospice located in the neighbouring borough of Hackney. Patients from Newham were the least active in accessing supportive services from the Hospice. When surveyed, these patients requested access to more local services and prioritised provision of rehabilitation/physiotherapy, complementary therapy, and patient/family social support.
Aim To recruit and train volunteers to be able to visit patients at home to:
Supervise rehabilitation/exercise programmes
Provide complementary therapy
Offer befriending/psychosocial support
Practice self-management techniques
Encourage participation in meaningful activities
To increase the profile of hospice services within Newham.
Methods Volunteers were recruited from healthcare courses and volunteer networks. They were trained over 4 days to be able to support patients to follow a plan designed by a Physiotherapist. Patients were assessed by a Physiotherapist who established the patient’s goals, agreed activities they would do with volunteer support, and completed a range of outcome measures. Volunteers visited patients for 1 h at their homes for 8 visits before being reassessed by the physiotherapist.
Outcomes In one year 60 patients were supported a total of 302 times by 26 different volunteers. Outcome measures taken indicated the programme contributed to improved wellbeing, functional independence, confidence, and reduced utilisation of healthcare services. Review of patients’ goals showed 70% achievement of set objectives.
Conclusions Trained volunteers can be safely and successfully utilised to provide practical and emotional support to patients in the community. With volunteer supervision hospice patients can achieve improved quality of life and independence through participation in practical and social activities.
Application to hospice practice Patient access to rehabilitative palliative care can be restricted by limited resources of allied health professionals in hospices. Appropriately trained and supervised volunteers can increase the provision of rehabilitative services to hospice patients.
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