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Ground-breaking palliative care unit prizes compassion

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A pioneering academic palliative care unit that features staff specially chosen for their compassion was officially opened today at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The 12-bedded unit will aim to provide world-leading clinical and compassionate specialist care for patients with the most complex, high-dependency palliative and end of life care needs.

“We only get one chance to get care right for people towards the end of their lives”

John Ellershaw 

It differs from other general and specialist wards in the hospital, with patients benefitting from research-led specialist palliative care, delivered in a specially designed ward.

Care is led by specialist palliative care consultants and nurses, supported by a team of specially trained nurses and healthcare assistants recruited for demonstrating the compassion and emotional maturity required to provide high quality palliative and end of life care.

The specialist care on the unit enables their palliative care treatment needs, such as pain relief, to be quickly and expertly assessed and addressed, said the trust.

The aim is that once a patient’s palliative care needs are addressed they can be discharged to the most appropriate place of care, in line with their needs and wishes, such as home or hospice.

Meanwhile, the colour scheme has been chosen for its therapeutic benefits, furniture has been specially selected to be comfortable while also being practical and hygienic.

Special attention has been paid to the non-clinical areas so that families and friends benefit from a supportive environment.

The usual “nurses station” area usually found on hospital wards has been replaced with a hotel style reception area, staffed by a receptionist who greets and gets to know patients and families.

In addition, there is a unique “family and friends suite” with comfortable seating, private space and a kitchen area where people can make a cup of tea and snacks, and stay overnight when needed.

It is intended to provide a space where difficult conversations can be had in a more private and relaxed setting than is usual in a hospital ward. Visiting hours are open at all times.

“Recruiting our nursing team in this way has been a real innovation and learning curve”

Deborah Murphy

The unit is also a centre for research and service innovation, delivered in partnership with the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool at the University of Liverpool.

John Ellershaw, professor of palliative medicine and director of the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute, said: “We only get one chance to get care right for people towards the end of their lives and this unit is a major new milestone in us doing so.”

Lisa Grant, the trust’s chief nurse, said: “This unit and its staff don’t just enhance patient treatment and care they touch the lives of each and every individual, be it patient or their loved one.”

Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust

Ground-breaking palliative care unit prizes compassion

Lisa Grant

She added that you “can’t underestimate the power” of the staff’s personal touches and that the unit would “transform patient and carer experience”.

Senior nurse Deborah Murphy, palliative and end of life care service manager, said: “The nursing team is playing a central role in delivering the high level of specialist clinical and compassionate care provided by the unit.

“The skills mix is particularly important, led by highly specialist palliative care nurses and team of nurses and healthcare assistants selected for their natural compassion and emotional maturity and then specially trained for their roles on the team,” she said.

“Recruiting our nursing team in this way has been a real innovation and learning curve, but we have already seen the benefits in the high standard of care and compassion being delivered by our highly motivated team every day,” said Ms Murphy.


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