Background Sussex Hospices Project ECHO mission is for the seven hospices to work together to create high quality, accessible Communities of Practice between palliative care specialists and healthcare providers. However, this is manpower heavy at a time of economic frugality and lack of skilled, appropriate staff.
Volunteer usage is common and important in palliative care across Europe (Woitha, Hasselaar, van Beek, et al., 2015. Pain Pract. 15:572), but there is a dearth of literature in Project ECHO. Published literature only includes: usage of volunteers in falls prevention (Peel & Warburton, 2009. Australas J Ageing. 28:7); advance care planning (Seymour, Almack, Kennedy et al., 2013. Health Expect. 16:43) both as peer educators exist. Along with medical student volunteers bridging gaps in limited resource settings specifically for Project ECHO (McLeod, Oladeru, Hao, et al., 2021. Acad Med. 96:390). Whilst diversification of the role of the volunteer is acknowledged, traditional volunteers’ cohorts have altered due to the pandemic (Vanderstichelen, 2022. Palliat Med. 36:564).
Aim To recruit, train and evaluate the use of volunteers to support the roll out of Project ECHO in Sussex.
Methods All seven hospices in the collaborative were approached for suitable volunteers. Training for recruits consists of a total of six hours remote training and observation of an ECHO session. All volunteers have existing governance with their host hospice and the team support their ECHO contribution.
Results All three recruited to date had been volunteering for their hospice for a range of years, had retired from senior management careers and had experience in sales. Volunteers work remotely, offer regular, dedicated time to focus on identifying new care homes. Pre-use of volunteers 46 care homes were registered after 189 contacts; post use of volunteers 34 care homes registered after 174 contacts (ongoing).
Conclusion Skilled volunteers can be a valuable addition to a Project ECHO team to increase reach and build new relationships with care homes. Remote working provides opportunity to recruit from a wider group of candidates.
Innovation The changing face of volunteers has enabled their use in Project ECHO in a significantly time-consuming area.
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