Meet the team – Ruth Brown, Hospice at Home Manager

Since the Hospice at Home service’s inception in 2016, we have supported more than 300 people to die at home with their families and friends by their side. Our professional and compassionate healthcare assistants have delivered over 30,000 hours of day and night care.

Ruth Brown, Hospice at Home Manager, explains more about its initial set-up and how important the service is, in our rural community where home-based end of life care is so very much needed.

I have held the position of Hospice at Home Manager for over three years. My previous nursing background was firstly as a community healthcare assistant, then as a qualified nurse, district nurse and finally Community Matron, all with the NHS and predominantly within the community setting.

It was important to me to conclude my career using as many of my skills and attributes as possible, with my passion for good end-of-life care. My niece saw the advert for my current post and rang me to say that she had found me my perfect job, she knows me so well. I was overjoyed when successful; I believe Janet’s (Dunphy, CEO) ears are still ringing from my screams when offered the job!

A Hospice at Home service had been a dream for Blythe House Hospice following the legacy left by Stan Blythe 30 years ago. Reverend Betty Packham, the founder of the hospice, saw the beds in people’s homes as a solution to delivering quality end-of-life care in our community. We have brought dying back into people’s homes and into the community where it belongs, and for many patients where there is an expected death, a reduced likelihood of being hospitalised and their death medicalised. We enable many patients to come home from hospital or other inpatient units, to die at home if that is their choice.

In my previous roles, end-of-life care was my specialism; I worked with motivated professionals where values were shared and together we provided outstanding care. I believed that I could re-create a similar culture and philosophy here at Blythe House Hospicecare, and Janet shared my enthusiasm and passion for good end-of-life care. We made an instant connection in parallel-thinking and goal setting, a great deal of ground work had been done before I began; it was down to me to develop a team, build a service with high standards of care delivery and to promote our service in as many settings as possible, to imbed timely referral to our new service from GP practices, district nursing teams, hospitals and hospices.

If I am honest, I wasn’t sure how quickly we might grow and those first couple of weeks we held our breath but referrals came in, slowly at first but then more rapidly. We have now accepted 410 referral s and have recorded 303 deaths with 92% achieving death in their preferred place. We currently have 30 patients receiving care.

I must pay tribute to my colleagues Sam Hanley [Hospice at Home Co-ordinator] and Kathy Ashby [Hospice at Home Assistant], and the wonderful team of healthcare assistants who deliver this high quality service. They are respected and supported; in recent conversations they repeatedly talk of their love for the service and their privileged position. They appreciate the training and supervision we deliver to ensure we are a specialist service with gold standard outcomes.

We continually evaluate the service and receive wonderful comments from our patient’s families and friends.

It has been an amazing three years and the success of the service could only have been a dream in the beginning. I am very proud of what we have achieved together and can’t wait for the next stage of the journey in the hope of reaching every patient in the last year of life across the High Peak, and beyond that, to share and imbed our model of care across the county of Derbyshire.

How did you get involved with Blythe House Hospice?

I originally came to Blythe House as volunteer receptionist, I also provided admin support to the counselling team. A position became available in The Volunteer Support Team and I was successful on application. In December 2015 I was asked if I would like to support the new Hospice at Home service for 10 hours per week! This soon became my sole role and I now work 30 hours per week.

What does your role involve?

My main task is coordinator for Hospice at Home which involves arranging care for patients in their own home with our team of lovely healthcare assistants. The care can range from a couple of hours to an overnight stay, throughout the High Peak. We currently have 26 patients actively receiving care and 25 healthcare assistants. I usually make arrangements for over 400 visits a month.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

Every day is a challenge that keeps me on my toes; we are a very busy office and fast paced. All the hospice staff, volunteers and patients are just so lovely and I know this is often said, but we are like one big family.

What have you learnt as a result of volunteering and working at Blythe House?

Although I volunteered here, I wasn’t looking for a paid position, so I suppose being open to something different is a good lesson. I’m so glad I took that decision as I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if I hadn’t, and actually, I think this is the role I was always meant to do.

What would you say to inspire others to find out more about Blythe House and the services it offers?

Come and visit us! The biggest misconception when I speak to people about the hospice is that it’s a sad place… Just 15 minutes in the hospice will show you that it is such a positive happy place!

How exiting we can celebrate the past, the present and the future… and we plan to! Look out for all the opportunities to tell your story and celebrate with us.

Blythe House Hospice started because of our wonderful Rev Betty Packham who cared for parishioner Stan Blythe in her home until he died. Stan left Betty a £1000 legacy, and she decided to start a service that would support people in the High Peak affected by life-limiting illness.

Somewhere in one small room, some special people had a vision and created Blythe House Hospice. The community responded with donations of time and money, volunteers for service provision and the Board of Trustees. And it is both of those groups who have been the backbone of Blythe House Hospice. Trustees such as John McNamara and Dr Simon Cocksedge have devoted decades to Blythe House Hospice, Pat Holland has raised over £100,000 with the marvellous Hallé events. Our Chairman Tim Mourne works tirelessly, you will see him at the Hospice and at every event, both driven and compassionate.

And a large number of volunteers have been here since the start, or for decades, doing everything and anything to drive us forward and keep services running. We have seen our income generation teams blossom and grow because of that. We know that if the money stops we stop; it is our volunteers and the generous public that makes sure that it doesn’t stop. They bring warmth, laughter, smiles and so much love into all they do. Their pride is palpable it is the pulse of the organisation.

Many professionals have worked across all areas with passion and enthusiasm to bring us where we are, whether you are here now, retired or developing your career somewhere else, whether I have met you or not, I thank you sincerely.

We are all shaped by our experiences and it is the people, spirits and experiences within Blythe House Hospice which have given it that special feeling; the one that wraps around you as you enter. It’s bright, it’s warm and it’s spiritually safe however complicated and difficult life may be for people. Throughout change, that vital essence has been nurtured. To stay the same in health care means, paradoxically that we must endure change. It is that well known fact and the climate of austerity that are always our challenges. We have to be able to continue to provide the services needed by our community, changing where we need to and constantly nurturing is how we achieve that.

A 30 year history has shown that we see three generations of people, because we care for adults and children, we may see grandma and grandson. Families know us and we know them, one of the magic elements of a small community; connectivity. The medical friendship of Dr Sarah Parnacott, Consultant in Palliative Medicine; Pauline Love, End of Life GP; and all our GPs and District Nurses; the team at Ashgate Hospicecare have been a part of the connections that ensures excellent, well communicated care.

The volume and quality of work we have delivered evidences how much these services are needed, we know that most care will be delivered in community. Our mission at Blythe House Hospice is to keep this community self-reliant and work with our partners and colleagues in primary care to avoid hospital admission and keep cancer support and end of life care close to home. The generosity of the public has brought us this far, I’m confident that together we can support the next three generations, my team and I are very proud to be taking us forward.

If you are reading this you have some interest in what we do and likely support us, you may be one of our fabulous volunteers, so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you, sincerely thank you. We couldn’t do this for you without you.

I want to finish where we started with Rev Betty Packham, still close, still giving of her time and spirit – that matters enormously Betty, you are much loved and respected.