Making the biggest difference: A personal message to Pilgrims’ volunteers

Volunteers’ Week 2018 begins today (1 June) and Cate Russell, Chief Executive of Pilgrims Hospices, is marking the occasion with a special ‘thank you’ message to all of Pilgrims’ fantastic volunteers.

Dear Pilgrims Volunteer,

A great deal has been happening at Pilgrims Hospices this past year and I am excited to mark Volunteers’ Week 2018 by recognising all that you do.

The theme this year is ‘diversity’ and this is best reflected by the wide variety of tasks and activities you undertake to support Pilgrims’ mission.

You bring in revenue; we won the Retailer of the Year award this year – a wonderful recognition of all the hard work that goes on out there.

You support our events and what a busy agenda we have this year with major fundraising going on across all sites!

You tend to and care for our hospices, therapy centres and gardens.

You run our receptions, work in the Therapy Centres and now we are building specialist roles with volunteers who complement our business teams.

Not only do you get stuck in to your hands-on roles, you are also there to talk with and listen to patients and their families, often over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

You connect with people in the community as well as the hospices by what we do and you often do this without realising how important it is.

And so much more!

We are one of the biggest adult Hospice groups in the UK and we can only offer the level of service that we do because of your efforts.

Our vision is to have a community where people with a terminal illness and their family and friends, are supported and empowered to live well in mind and body until the very last moment of their life.

Cate Russell

I’d like to take this opportunity to not only publicly recognise the amazing things you do, but to update you on how Pilgrims is moving forwards to make an even bigger difference to people at the end of their lives, their families and friends.

Looking ahead

Currently, we care for around 2500 patients a year and the average time from referral to death is often less than 10 weeks. For some patients it can be just a matter of days. The average length of stay for a patient with us in the final phase is around six days.

The earlier patients are referred to us, the sooner we can make a difference to their lives, and those of their family and friends – in the community and not only in our hospices.

One of the challenges we face is that, although we know we deliver an excellent service, many healthcare professionals are unaware of our full service capability. Families often aren’t referred because there is a lack of understanding as to how to identify people in the final phase of life.

So what can we do about this and how can you make an even bigger difference?

We have just completed a review of our role in supporting families in east Kent who are at the end of their life. It was a timely exercise as our NHS and Social Care partners were doing the same.

We consulted with stakeholders and had discussions with our NHS commissioners, GPs, district nurses, other care providers such as Marie Curie and Crossroads and people within the acute services East Kent University Foundation Trust (EKUFT).

We have also taken feedback from service users and held workshops to understand the views and ideas of our internal experts.

The good news is that we are all looking to work in a more integrated way! We can now see a real opportunity for Pilgrims to move beyond the walls of our institution and lead the way in ensuring that people in their final phase of life can access good quality services and support much sooner.

We now want to go beyond the actual delivery of care and reach out to influence and empower others within the community. This means we have to create the resource, time and tools to train and develop the skills of others, whilst continuing to care for people whose needs cannot be met elsewhere.

One of our key goals is to encourage people with an incurable illness to come and talk to us sooner. We want people to live well in the last year of their life, and for their families to be part of that too.

Cate Russell

Of course, we cannot do this alone and our work with the social care and health community will continue. But we want everyone to have a much more active role in improving the end of life experience, inside and outside our hospices.

This is where you, as a valued volunteer, can help.

Sharing Pilgrims’ vision

We want to create an open culture around the whole subject of the final phase of life, so more families can have more insight and make more informed choices.

By finding new funding revenues and sharing greater knowledge, we will work to empower people, helping them to take control of this final phase in their lives much sooner.

We will be developing new roles for volunteers in the future too. But you don’t have to take on a new role to help our vision become reality. We recognise that you are already a powerful voice for Pilgrims in your community, so we ask that you continue doing what you’re best at – raising awareness and talking to others.

For example, you can point someone in the direction of our new website to find additional resources and contacts.

Or you can mention that every month we care for more than 850 people in the community after their prognosis.

You can talk about our education and research teams who are leading the way in end of life care and our work to help the bereaved.

Or you could mention that we help people to live well by providing therapy and physio services they can access when the time is right for them.

We hope that simple conversations will lead to earlier referrals, and, as we know, that can make a huge difference to someone in their last year of life.

And that’s exactly why we do what we do for Pilgrims – to make a positive difference to others.

Thank you for doing just that!

Cate Russell
Chief Executive, Pilgrims Hospices

Inspired to become a Pilgrims’ volunteer?

Visit and look out for more stories and information throughout Volunteers’ Week!

Tell us your volunteer story on social media by using the hashtags #PilgrimsLife and #VolunteerVoices.

Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. It takes place 1-7 June every year and is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering in all its diversity.