The two healthcare assistants heading for the car: L-R: Wendy Crofts, Amanda Spray.

Every year the Nottinghamshire Hospice need to raise almost £3 million to provide free end of life care and emotional support for families across Nottinghamshire facing terminal illness, but for all charities 2020 has been very different.

This year they are expecting losses of £150,000 due to the effects of the first lockdown, and the second closure of their ten shops which usually bring in an income of £1 million a year.

The hospice usually supports around 1000 patients each year, however during the first six months of 2020 they had received 900 referrals and are expecting to double their usual amount by the end of the year. During the first lockdown alone the hospice supported an approximate 750 patients.

Last year Nottinghamshire Hospice delivered over 46,000 hours of Hospice at Home Care, provided 3931 visits to patients via their Hospice Night Support Service, and had over 5000 visits to their Day Therapy Well-Being service.

Media and PR Officer Clare Stevens, 56, has been working at the Nottinghamshire Hospice for over two years.

She said: “Our care is more important than ever during the pandemic as our intervention keeps people out of hospital, allowing them to spend their final moments at home.

“We set up our Hospice Outreach and Discharge Support Service in response to the pandemic so we could help more patients, and this new service has meant we’ve been able to fast-track people out of hospital.”

There are two teams for the Outreach and Discharge service, which include eight Healthcare Assistants and a Registered Nurse, who are supported by an Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist when necessary.

In previous years the Nottinghamshire Hospice would have had ten fundraising events between March and December as well as events organised by their supporters. However these have all been impacted by the pandemic.

The Nottinghamshire Hospice building

Clare added: “Our supporters have been wonderful however in this challenging time and many have put on their own distanced fundraisers.

“Two sisters did a head-shave on Zoom, a three-year-old did a 26-jigsaw puzzle marathon, and her young cousins did a danceathon. Two runners also did the virtual London marathon for us.

“All our fundraising has been virtual since March. Our usual Forget-Me-Not campaign which usually happens in the spring turned into our ‘Forget us Not’ campaign which raised £60,000.”

Earlier this year the Nottinghamshire Hospice helped Bruce Melvyn Osborne, 75, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 3 years ago, as well as diabetes, COPD and fibrosis. He was taken to hospital in late February, and his family stayed with him until the first lockdown was announced when they were no longer allowed to visit him.

A short time later his family were told he would not recover and advised to prepare end of life care. Bruce wanted to be at home, but his family were told his wife would need support. His daughter, Justine Tomlinson, contacted Nottinghamshire Hospice, who enabled a swift discharge from hospital. At home and night support care was put in place, allowing Bruce to stay at home where he died 6 days later.

Justine said: “It was always his wish to be at home and it couldn’t happen quick enough, but things dragged out over several days as there was no care package in place. Mum was very distressed, and we were all worried he’d catch Covid-19 and have to die in hospital alone.

“The nursing team who came out were wonderful human beings and I will never forget their kindness to my mum. They ensured she kept hydrated, made sure she ate, and had the opportunity to get some rest.”

Bruce with family members at Christmas

The hospice nursing teams care for people in their homes 365 days and nights a year, including Christmas which can be an extra difficult time. As for most patients and their families, it would be their last Christmas together.

In previous years the Nottinghamshire Hospice has held Christmas celebrations for patients and their family members at the hospice, including a week of Christmas dinners and other events.

Clare said: “This year, since the pandemic took hold, we have not been able to have patients visit the hospice, so all our services have been adapted to help patients in their homes.

“While people are tucking into their Christmas dinners across Nottinghamshire, our nursing teams will be out and about across the city and county, caring for people in the last days and hours of their lives and supporting their loved ones.”

The hospice employs over 100 staff members, as well as 300 volunteers. Who work in their shops, support patients through wellbeing calls, or becoming gardening or counsellor volunteers.

They welcome volunteers from every part of Nottinghamshire’s community, and individuals are able to volunteer as much or as little as they can, as the volunteering roles are flexible.

No experience is needed as everyone can make a positive difference, all you need is energy, enthusiasm and a genuine interest in the hospice.