Aim Volunteers ensure high quality experience for hospice attendees. Building on existing practice and promoting future excellence, a volunteer workforce was trained to support patients and families in end of life (EoL) choices, in own home/hospital, particularly if alone. Volunteers, aligned to hospice vision and values, complement and ‘fill gaps’ in existing services.
Approach A review of day/‘at home’ patients, revealed those ‘well enough’ for discharge from specialist palliative care (SPC) input, who would still benefit from regular hospice support for self/family. A willing, confident, flexible, health and social care experienced, volunteer team, able to respond to changing demand, recruited to work unsupervised in people’s homes. A bespoke training programme, addressed expressed anxieties, role clarity, boundaries and communication skills. Volunteer Outside Service (VOS) co-ordinated by Hospice at Home, ideally placed to promote initiative whilst identifying/assessing potential patients. Patients seamlessly allocated volunteer visits and SPC as condition dictates. Uniformed volunteers, with lone worker devices, start and finish from hospice, with current patient information to avoid ‘surprises’ on arrival at patients’ home, undertake light household duties; provide listening ear/read; make meals; not expected to undertake personal/clinical care; have clear guidelines to follow if encounter difficulties and appropriately debriefed on return.
Results 10–14 volunteers made 500 home/hospital VOS visits. Volunteers report feeling valued and fulfilled, privileged to be involved in lives of people at an important time and proud of making a difference. Hospice staff report, that despite required time and support, they have integrated well into existing team providing companionship and practical support.
Conclusion Volunteers, integral to package of care, meet complex and challenging patient and family needs. Younger volunteers are needed, due to the demographic profile of the current volunteer workforce. The plan is to support more people dying in hospital and we continue to communicate with secondary care colleagues to ensure professional boundaries are respected. Volunteer training and retention, ensures continuity of a reportedly worthwhile valuable service.
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