Volunteer advocates at Dorset Cancer Advocacy were invited to visit the Macmillan Unit at Christchurch Hospital in July. A Specialist Palliative Care Unit for patients in South East Dorset and South West Hampshire, it is run by the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the core services are met by the Hospital Trust. ‘Macmillan Caring Locally’ is a Trust operating from offices in the Unit, which provides funding to enhance this care.
Heather Rogers, Senior Clinical Leader at the Macmillan Unit gave the coordinator and a small group of volunteers a comprehensive tour of the facilities, introduced them to the staff team and answered our questions in great detail. The Unit’s garden was particularly beautiful with an aviary and fish pond all adding to the sense of tranquillity. We were delighted to hear that patients could choose to spend the day out of doors and even sleep out on warm summer nights if they wished.
The specialist palliative care service is made up of an inpatient unit (a ward at the Macmillan Unit) with 16 beds and a dedicated team of inpatient nurses, a team of specialist palliative care community nurses who visit patients at home and in nursing or residential care, a team of doctors, a day centre at the Macmillan Unit which offers some complementary therapies, a team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists, a family support team, and a hospital palliative care team.
Patients are admitted to the Macmillan Unit for treatment of complex or difficult to manage symptoms, or to receive care when they are approaching the end of their life. It is not a long stay unit. Many patients are discharged from the Macmillan Unit ward with ongoing support from the specialist palliative care service, either to their own home, or to nursing or residential care, once their symptoms have been controlled.
We discussed with Heather in what ways the Unit differed from a Hospice and how we might best support our advocacy partners in considering their choices in palliative care. We left feeling impressed, uplifted and grateful that there is such a service on our doorstep.