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P-06 Integrated social, emotional, spiritual and psychological support for whole families, pre and post bereavement
  1. Emma Burns and
  2. Maddy Bass
  1. St John’s Hospice, Lancaster, UK


Background Quality palliative care encompasses holistic bereavement and pre-bereavement support for everyone important to the dying patient (Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care, 2021). Based on service user feedback, the Family Support Service was amalgamated from separate provisions for patients and loved ones, and incorporates a specialist offer for family therapy. Families can access holistic, systemic interventions in a purpose-built base within the hospice grounds and in the community.

Aims We provide accessible interventions throughout the bereavement journey. Unlike traditional models of counselling, families aren’t required to wait for a pre-determined timeframe to access support; instead, our ethos is rooted in clinical research, which suggests that help at the point of request (Dryden. Single-session therapy: distinctive features. 2019) and extra-therapeutic factors (Asay, Lambert. pp. 351–357 In: Hubble, Duncan, Miller (eds). The heart and soul of change: what works in therapy. 1999) are a high predictor of positive outcomes.

Methods The service provides responsive, systemically-informed support to adults, children and young people, delivered by a team of highly trained practitioners, social workers and individual and family therapists. Alongside talking therapies, creative interventions, psychoeducation, mindfulness and age-appropriate resources aim to increase families’ resilience and wellbeing. In addition to conventional therapy, family/peer group sessions and memory-making activities support those requiring lower level, non-formalised input; an estimated 80% of the bereaved population (Aoun, Breen, Howting et al. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(3): e0121101). As a new service, routine outcome measures are under review, though qualitative studies to date illustrate the need for holistic methods.

Results Families report that the responsive, family-led approach has proved beneficial:

The children adore spending happy time together and the support is very extensive and flexible. You’ve looked after us since the children’s Daddy’s deterioration and long after, and for this we are truly grateful.”

My children love coming here. It’s a safe, warm environment where they feel able to express themselves.”

Conclusions The hospice offers a package of care in which patients and families can access holistic social, emotional, psychological and spiritual support, individually and as a whole family unit at the point of need. Families have indicated that such support is invaluable.

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