Until March 2020, one of the benefits that many Prospect Hospice patients appreciated was the Day Therapy Service.

Patients were offered a 16-week programme of activities twice a week at the hospice, which ranged from rehabilitation and physiotherapy to courses of how to manage symptoms such as stress, fatigue and breathlessness.

It was also, says day therapy service lead Zoe O’Reilly, a chance for patients to have some social time with people facing similar challenges to the ones they faced.

“The programmes we run are centred around the individual patient, understanding their goals and helping them achieve those,” said Zoe.

“We also ran a drop-in coffee session once a month for patients, carers and families to pop in for a chat, which was also popular.”

But when the Covid pandemic hit, the day therapy centre had to close, and staff had to work out ways of delivering the support and education that these vulnerable patients needed.

“Initially, we kept in touch with the patients who used day therapy by phone, and also via our clinical nurse specialists who see patients in their own homes,” said Zoe.

“But soon we launched a fatigue and breathlessness helpline, which took referrals from the clinical nurse specialists, and our therapy team – who already saw patients in their own homes – could bring the fatigue and breathless services directly to patients.”

Zoe says the sudden need to take services out of the Prospect Hospice building has helped practitioners adopt a new approach for the future.

“We’ve had a mixed response to delivering therapy virtually – some patients are all for it, while others are not comfortable – so we are now looking at how we can take more of our services out into the community, rather than focusing on holding them in our base in Wroughton.

“When we have completed the redesign of our services we hope to be able to run courses such as stress management or family therapy far closer to where people live, perhaps in local community centres, for example.”

Prospect Hospice during the pandemic

If you’re running a hospice during a pandemic, what do you do when most of your patients, their loved ones and others in the community can’t come into your hospice building anymore?

Simple, say the end-of-life care specialists at Prospect Hospice – you take the hospice out into the community instead.

Swindon Advertiser:

Irene Watkins, chief executive of Prospect Hospice

The Covid-19 crisis hasn’t stopped the Wroughton provider from delivering end-of-life care to patients and their families and loved ones. It’s just meant that the hospice has been taking far more of its expert services out into the community, and into people’s own homes.

Chief executive Irene Watkins said the feedback she is getting from patients and families is that this new way of working is working very well indeed.

She said: “We’ve always known that Prospect Hospice is so much more than bricks and mortar.

"But this year has given us the opportunity to showcase that to the wonderful community that supports us.

"Covid-19 meant it was suddenly impossible to offer services like day therapy or family support at our Wroughton base. But by thinking out of the box, our colleagues soon devised new ways of supporting patients and families, whether in person in their homes or online.

"The phrase that I’ve begun to use is Prospect without walls. Because we are there, out in the community, where we now need to be.

"I’m so proud of how everyone has flexed to make sure that our community has been able to benefit from the expertise in specialist, end-of-life care which Prospect Hospice is well known for.”

Did you know?

Around 70 per cent of Prospect's income comes from the donations and fundraising efforts of people who live or work in Swindon and its surrounding area. This generosity that enables the hospice to provide expert clinical, emotional and practical support.

Swindon Advertiser:

Prospect@Home health care assistants Kerrie Westmacott and Kerri Parkes spend their days with patients in their homes

Join Together January for Prospect Hospice

As part of its community drive, Prospect Hospice has launched Join Together January.

The initiative provides four fun ideas to give people the opportunity to come together each week throughout the month so they can keep in touch while supporting services across Swindon and north east Wiltshire.

People will be encouraged to host their own virtual quiz over Zoom with family and friends – with no Google allowed! The charity is also providing help with hosting bingo nights, a murder mystery and a cookalong, with the details available early in the new year.

Swindon Advertiser:

Community and events fundraiser Abby Benson said: “We know it’s been really difficult over the last year for people to see each other and share special moments so we wanted to create a way for family and friends to come together and share some fun to start the new year in a positive way.

"We’ve come up with four ways that people can do that, enabling them to do something each week which brings them together to catch up and help raise a little money for the hospice too.”

Registration for the quiz, bingo and murder mystery is free and anybody interested can download everything they need to create a fun evening in from the charity’s website page.

All the hospice asks is that people who take part set up an online fundraising page so that others can donate if they wish.

Registration for the cookalong costs £20 for the lead booker. A video demonstration to share on the night and a list of ingredients and equipment will make sure participants are fully prepared.

To find out more about the events and download host packs, visit www.prospect-hospice.net/jointogetherjanuary