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Case Study – Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice and Hospice UK

Community hospice creates Therapy Assistant role to meet growing demand with Hospice UK to help patients with serious and changing illnesses

Facilitated by Help the Hospices (now Hospice UK) the umbrella organisation for hospices, Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice worked with our team here at Skills for Health to identify and develop a new Level 3 Therapy Assistant role which could enable the hospice to meet increasing patient needs.

The hospice sector was experiencing growing demand for rehabilitation services, as more people are now surviving serious illness but may still have longer-term medical needs. Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice developed its Rehabilitation Team to meet increasing and changing patient needs. The hospice building was extended to provide additional facilities such as a gym, to provider an even greater range of services to patients.

The Rehabilitation Team’s physiotherapist and occupational therapist undertake a range of activities with the aim of facilitating independence, supporting symptom management, working with carers and families, as well as running group rehab sessions. They soon started to reach full capacity in terms of the number of patients that they can support.

The hospice was therefore looking for a way to expand the team in a cost-effective way and identified the potential for a Level 3 Therapy Assistant to work as part of the Rehabilitation Team, contributing to patients’ assessment and treatment. The role would have a clinical caseload, working in the ward, clinics, outpatient settings, and patients’ homes. Doing some of the less complex work currently carried out by the physiotherapist and occupational therapist, giving them more time for specialised work with patients. The Therapy Assistant would be able to check that equipment is being used properly at home, for example, help with rehabilitation groups, and communicate sensitive information to patients and families.

“Our main emphasis is for patients who are palliative but we want to be able to develop more services in the future for those who are surviving cancer and facing life, with all its challenges as a cancer survivor… This new role will help us to do that. We’ll also be able to develop more specific groups-for example we recently ran a pilot group for lymphoedema
patients which we would like to expand further for others.”

Wendy McMahon, Occupational Therapist, Greenwich and Bexley  Community Hospice

The hospice worked to obtain funding to implement the role, with a short-term trial of the Therapy Assistant role, during a period of recruitment for a physio, using an existing member of staff. This demonstrated the benefits of having a support worker within the Rehab Team and highlight how the role could be implemented and supported when funding was secured.

Benefits

  • higher numbers of patients able to be assisted with a wider range of service support
  • physiotherapist and occupational therapists have more time to carry out specialist work
  • service is more responsive to increased patient needs
  • increased quality of care through greater continuity of staff
  • improved patient satisfaction
  • more potential for supporting patients in their own
  • home – enabling patients to be assessed and maintained in their own homes
  • shorter stays, with time appropriate discharge from the hospice
  • better compliance, achieving the target of responding to all referrals within 24 hours
  • decreased use of agency staff, leading to efficiency savings

Our experts in role development to enhance services and patient care worked with Hospice UK (then Help the Hospices) to deliver a workshop for hospices who were interested in role design and in potentially developing a new role. Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice identified the potential for a new Level 3 Therapy Assistant at this workshop. They then developed the role, along with itslearning and training needs, with advice and guidance from our workforce consultants here at Skills for Health.

The hospice has created a training matrix for the role,using joint training with its Health Care Assistants where appropriate, supported with one-to-one in-house training.

“The project was well-structured and well-organised by Skills for Health, who gave us support when needed. They asked us the right questions at the right time to ensure that we tailored the competency framework to fully reflect the role that we were developing.”

Wendy McMahon, Occupational Therapist, Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice

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