A ground-breaking role has been created at a Shropshire charity in a bid to forge links with, and provide care for, people from under-represented communities.
The start of 2023 was an exciting time for Severn Hospice when former Outreach nurse Deb Wallace took up her new post as Community Engagement Lead.
“As well as being new for me, it’s new for the hospice,” said Deb who has worked for the charity since 2019. “It is part of our strategy to ensure we are doing our best to reach communities who might otherwise be missing out on the care we can offer them.”
Deb worked in the community, covering the Telford area, as an Outreach nurse caring for people with incurable illness who want to receive treatment in their own homes.
“Everyone here at Severn Hospice knows our care is given without prejudice or pre-judgment to anyone who needs it,” said Deb. “But do those who might need it know that? Do we need to do more so they understand we care for everyone?
“A life-limiting illness can affect anyone, from any walk of life, and my role is to reach out to all communities, whoever they are and offer them support, compassion and care.”
The role is a two-year secondment and at this stage is about better understanding those communities identified as ‘seldom heard’ including the homeless, people for whom English isn’t their first language, the traveller community and those from the LGBTQ+ community.
“But there may be others too, for example people in care homes,” added Deb. “The starting point for all of this has been work looking at the make-up of our community in the patch. When you see how different groups are then represented in our care stats, there is a mismatch. My work will be to understand why that is. It’s a challenge for me but I have a lot of community, nursing and hospice experience to draw on.”
Not only has Deb been at the heart of the hospice through her work with the Outreach team, but she also has personal experience of the care the charity provides – her grandmother passed away at the hospice in Bicton, Shrewsbury in 2005.
“The love and care we all felt when my nan was on the ward really made me think ‘I want to do that’. We were all scared when we were told that my nan would be going into the hospice but then I realised palliative care nursing was the kind of nursing I wanted to be part of.
“If I can engage with GPs, nursing home staff and hospitals then I can educate them about what we provide. I hope that I can exchange information with other organisations. I feel with this role that I will have a positive impact on under-represented communities and help to provide the care they need but may think they can’t access.”