Nurse opens up on challenges facing North Wales hospice due to Coronavirus and funding shortfall

THE significance of St David’s Hospice has never been more apparent than in past months.

Care staff have continued to deliver first-class clinical services despite the COVID-19 pandemic and have often been called upon to support patients whose families could not visit due to social-distance and self-isolation restrictions.

As lockdown rules ease, the Llandudno-based facility has seen charity shops reopen and fundraising events take place virtually.

But it may not be enough to stop them losing £1.2m this year as the Coronavirus impacts upon communities across the country.

Ben Turton, from Llandygai, is one of the incredible staff to have been an ever-present on the frontline at St David’s since the outbreak began; part of a workforce whose efforts have made sure local people receive the end of life care they need.

The 39 year-old began nursing in America, before moving back to the UK and working for the NHS.

He then joined the team at St David’s, where he has been for more than six years – in an academic and now clinical role – and believes the challenges they have faced since March have made the hospice even stronger.

“We have a well-known, valued and much-loved group of people working here, but that has reached new levels,” said Ben.

“One of the things we all love is that it’s an intimate, caring environment; we are all one and it’s a lovely place in that sense.

“But since the onset of COVID-19 we have really been down to our core, there have been a lot less visitors and it’s been more clinical. We had to lose a little bit of the human side of things, which has been difficult for all of us.”

He admits limits on patient interactivity with family and visitors has been heart-breaking at a time when they need them most, in those last days of life.

“We have at times stepped in to fill that void, and that is so hard to do, especially when you’re wearing a mask and protective clothing and there are so many barriers between you,” said Ben.

“It has been an anxious time; returning home to my daughter and telling her she can’t have a cuddle because Daddy needs to shower and get cleaned up is hard, and it’s every day – it’s so, so tough.”

Hospices in the region have been left with a cash shortfall as the crisis ignited uncertainties over Government support and a 50% disparity between the funding of hospices in England and Wales.

“This makes the job even harder,” said Ben.

“It’s massive that we get the support needed, we don’t just sit back waiting for hand-outs, but the government can’t just expect us to lean on the generosity of the public.

“We don’t want to be worried about whether to use certain products or how much we have to hold back because of financial implications. That would adversely affect levels of care, and that is wrong.

“A lot of our patients have been through hell; they get here and tell us how safe they feel.

“People come here and receive the care they need, we are experts in symptom management and we treat the whole person, even in the last days of life we can have a positive impact in their living and dying.

“We offer something hospitals can’t, and though they do an amazing job it’s a different culture, different speed and they have different pressures, dominated by patient survival and flow which is not how we work – hospitals are not designed for end of life care.”

He added: “It is vital that hospices survive, not everyone has the comfort of dying at home, a lot of people have complex needs and symptoms, and they need us, the staff, specialist training and equipment to deal with that.

“People will suffer without our care, mentally and physically, not just our patient but their loved ones – how could we afford for that to happen.”

For more information on St David’s Hospice, visit www.stdavidshospice.org.uk

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