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Foyle Hospice reveals new Compassionate Communities Project

foyle hospice 1438873219.jpg

Plans for a North West Compassionate Communities project led by Foyle Hospice working with Integrated Care Partnership

After a period of sustained discussion with many interested groups, the Integrated Care Partnership in the West have been successful in securing funding for Foyle Hospice to develop a short pilot of a Compassionate Communities Project locally. Compassionate Communities, the brain child of Professor Allan Kellehear, is a public health/community development, health promotion model of palliative and supportive care which has spread rapidly around the world from its earliest origins in Australia. The concept is "of the community, for the community, by the community” presenting initiatives that empower communities to care for people who are living with advanced frailty so they can continue to enjoy meaningful and socially engaged lives.

Donall Henderson, CEO Foyle Hospice had this to say, ‘We are delighted that ICP have seen the promise of Compassionate Communities and the tangible benefits it will bring to the lives of some of our most frail and vulnerable people in the community. This project has been a long time in the planning stage, now with funding we can put into action the programme that addresses the needs of local people who perhaps through illness or bereavement have become socially isolated.’

Yvonne Martin, Director of Nursing, who has been involved from the beginning described how the project works. ‘For many people the physical symptoms of on-going illness and frailty and indeed the debilitating consequences of grief can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to get out of the house or on their mental well-being. Their need for support can impact on the wellbeing of their carers and their wider family circle also. They may become withdrawn and gradually social disengage which can result in serious psychological and social morbidities. There is strong evidence that social engagement can counteract a lot of these issues and enable people to live independently at home with less dependency on primary healthcare services. The project will aim to better enable local communities to support and care for their own vulnerable neighbours by building the support infrastructure and developing social capital - trust, empathy and cooperation. Staff from Foyle Hospice have seen first-hand how Severn Hospice in Shropshire and Milford Hospice in Limerick through their Compassionate Communities initiatives have made a real difference to people’s lives when they need additional support.’

At a broader level Compassionate Communities also looks to increase community awareness and understanding of frailty, and to increase the community’s capacity to support those who are living with its effects. As medical advances have helped people to live longer with illness, this model aims to explore how the community might adapt in a range of ways to the reality of growing numbers of people affected directly or indirectly by long-term ill health and frailty. The Hospice hopes to build partnership with a range of local community organisations over time to further advance this work.

Dr Damien McMullan Consultant in Palliative Medicine, who led this section of the ICP’s work commented, ‘Community engagement complements healthcare in helping people who are living with the challenges of poor health to stay connected to others and to feel valued. This is really important. We hope that the pilot will demonstrate that partnership working between organisations from both statutory and voluntary sectors allows capacity building and learning on both sides, and most importantly can improve the lives of those living with life limiting illness and their families.’

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