Sue Ryder hospice and NHS hospital appoint new joint palliative care role

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have worked together to appoint Dr Brenda Ward, the new Palliative Care Consultant who will support patients and families across both sites, in what is a first for Gloucestershire.

Dr Brenda Ward, Palliative Care Consultant at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice and Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust
Dr Brenda Ward: “I’m really enjoying my time working across both care settings.”

Continuity of care

Dr Brenda Ward is working at the Sue Ryder hospice site in Cheltenham two days a week and Gloucestershire Royal Hospital three days a week, sharing her expertise and knowledge across both organisations.

It’s the first time a consultant has worked across both sites in Gloucestershire in this way, and both organisations hope it will make a big difference to continuity of care for patients and their families, and importantly improve their quality of life, so they can make the most of whatever time they have left.

Brenda said, “I love working with patients and their families to really improve their quality of life in what is often very difficult circumstances. Being able to do this across both organisations means we’re able to improve continuity of care for people receiving palliative care in Gloucestershire.”

“We want to make sure people with a palliative condition receive the best treatment”

“We want to do all we can to make sure people with a palliative condition receive the best treatment, whether they’re receiving care in the hospice, at home, in hospital or another care setting. The key is making sure different specialists in their respective fields of medicine come together to focus on the holistic care of that person, discussing the best treatment plans to make sure we’re meeting people’s physical, social and psychological needs.

“I find many people often do not really understand what the term ‘palliative care’ means and talking about this can be frightening for them. When you explain to people palliative care is all about improving quality of life, better managing their symptoms, and helping to address any concerns they have, it becomes more welcome.”

Brenda is working alongside Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice’s palliative care consultant Dr Paul Perkins, and she brings a wealth of palliative care experience and expertise to her joint Gloucestershire role. She initially trained as a GP, going on to specialise in palliative care in the West Midlands before working as a consultant at a hospice in Somerset for four years.

Sharing expertise through training

Since 2013, she has divided her time between working as a locum in a variety of palliative care settings in the West Midlands and volunteering for several months each year at Ganga Prem Hospice, Rishikesh in North India.

On her first visit to the hospice in India, she recognised the need to share expertise through training and has continued to support the team at the hospice since then.

“I fell in love with the place and I really felt I was doing something worthwhile,” Brenda said. “There are a number of differences between the two countries, but also a lot of similarities. In particular, both countries need to educate more doctors and nurses in the delivery of palliative care, because in doing so we can make a real difference to the lives of patients and their families.”

Working together through the pandemic

Brenda has been working alongside her hospice and NHS colleagues at a difficult time for health teams as they face the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the most challenging aspects of providing care is not having visitors come in to see patients, as would normally occur. We spend a lot of time talking to relatives and we now have to do a lot of this over the phone, which is more difficult. 

“In lockdown visiting restrictions have to be strict, of course. It has also been hard trying to speak to people through visors and masks. You feel the barriers as we try to provide that human contact. All these things go against what we want to do.”

“What I enjoy most about this role is seeing the difference it makes to people’s lives”

Brenda wants people to know the huge difference palliative care can make, and to challenge people’s misconceptions about hospices too.

“People are often frightened of hospices; they tell us they fear once they become inpatients they will never come out again. They equate hospices with death, but in fact, more patients are discharged after a one to two week stay while we get their symptoms under control. When people are discharged they are usually better in themselves. Our care makes them feel more comfortable and it adds to their security. In fact, people often don’t want to leave the hospice!”

“I’m really enjoying my time working across both care settings. You can see the huge commitment from all the staff, and patients and relatives are full of praise. What I enjoy most about this role is seeing the difference it makes to people’s lives. A patient recently said to me, ‘You guys have got your priorities right. You know what is important to me and I have never had such good care. Everyone is wonderful.’ That to me is what makes this job so rewarding.”

Compassionate care when it matters

Elise Hoadley is Hospice Director at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice. She said: “Alongside our healthcare partners and colleagues in Gloucestershire, Sue Ryder is committed to delivering exceptional care for local families. 

“Brenda’s joint role is helping us to work closer than ever before with our colleagues at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, helping to make sure people in the county receive the highest level of expert and compassionate palliative care when it matters.”

Dr Kate Tredgett, Consultant in Palliative Medicine & Clinical Lead for Palliative and End of Life Care at Gloucestershire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, added, “The Palliative Care service in Gloucestershire has a long history of collaboration to provide the best possible care to patients in all settings. We are delighted that Brenda has joined our team and will continue to foster and develop these relationships which are so beneficial for our patients.”

Find out more about Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, the expert palliative care they provide and ways you can help to support them.