United Kingdom (UK) hospices historically have a history of health links or partnerships with resource-constrained countries to share learning through ‘twinning’ programmes, the donation of equipment or supplies. With no central database of these links, this study sought to map current, active health links with UK hospices.
Every UK hospice was contacted and there was a 22% response rate. The author conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with all of the respondents to understand their active health link, the benefits and challenges of the health links and interviews offered advice to UK hospices looking to develop health links in the future. The majority of the health links were educational in focus. Ten hospices had active health links with resource-constrained countries, while a further five had developed international health links with countries not classified as resource-constrained but identified as a positive mutual need. Results were divided into these groups accordingly for comparison.
All of the health links had been initiated by an individual with a passion for the work and some respondents asked for anonymity in their interviews. Overall, the benefits of these health links have been shown to be of mutual learning and respect and were personally transformative where positive professional relationships developed. Participants were clear they would like a national coordination system for resources, sharing information and to promote engagement in this work to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’. There was concern about longer term sustainability of the work and concern for international equity of care for patients.
Participants had clear advice for those hospices wishing to develop active health links in the future. The key suggestions were for research prior to establishing the health link, clear aims and objectives and making the right connections for the health link.
‘Do not leave those suffering behind’ (Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Association, 2014)
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