Over half a million people in the UK are currently living with heart failure (Hospice UK, 2017). It is a chronic condition characterised by frequent distressing symptoms and an unsure disease trajectory. People with heart failure, and those family and friends who care for them, have a high burden of unmet palliative care needs, but have poor access to hospice services (Hospice UK, 2017).
It is recognised that providing timely and effective care for those with heart failure is challenging. ‘Looking after end-stage heart failure is not rocket science. It is much more difficult. The trajectory of a rocket is predictable: the course of heart failure is not. Patients are not made of metal, and it matters what happens to them’ (Johnson, Lehman & Hogg, 2015).
During 2017/2018 a large acute trust in the West Midlands, along with a palliative and end of life care provider, worked together to develop an innovative project to improve the lives of people living with heart failure. Funding was secured from St James’s Place Charitable Foundation and the project commenced in January 2018.
The project aims to develop collaborative and creative approaches to delivering care and support for those with heart failure across the locality, and thus transform care for this group of patients and their families. This paper explores the approach taken (drawing on the work of Ind & Watt, 2004, regarding harnessing staff potential), discusses the key phases within the project and presents some initial findings and insights from the project. These early outcomes focus primarily on referrals, patients’ experiences of care and professional development. We also reflect on the learning which can be applied to any project involving collaboration within and across professional and organisational boundaries and consider the need for such approaches given the wider challenges facing health and social care.
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