St Raphael’s Hospice offers exceptional hospice care to those facing life-limiting illness living in Merton and Sutton. The service is completely free of charge and is paid for through a combination of NHS funding and public donations.
St Raphael’s is a Hospice in Sutton, England. The hard-working team there does the tough but important work of providing high-quality, empathetic care to those who are approaching the ends of their lives.
In the fall of 2019, John Groom, the Head of IT, was approached by a doctor from St. George’s Hospital who wanted help with a project. This doctor, being Indian himself, wanted to address the limitations in access to good training in palliative and end-of-life care in parts of India – in particular for those doctors and nurses who don’t work in private hospitals.
He wanted St Raphael’s expertise in the field and their help to develop an easily accessible resource to help provide high-quality education and training for care workers in India.
After agreeing to help, John thought back to the episode of Dragon’s Den that he saw featuring Beezer. He’d made a mental note of how simple a Beezer app would be to use, so now he decided to try it – and found that it really was simple to set up.
In no time, St Raphael’s Hospice had created an app for the doctor to use to help educate nurses and doctors in India who otherwise had little access to good information about palliative care.
Once the app was made, though, it took on a life of its own. The team at St Raphael’s started to realise how helpful it could be at home, as well: helping to train their own staff, the junior nurses and trainees that came through from the NHS, and staff at Care and Nursing Homes all over the country.
From there, it’s only continued to expand. On a trip to Nepal, back in October 2019, St Raphael’s Director of Finance and Resources showed off the app and it rapidly gained uptake in hospitals and hospice homes there. Not long afterwards, a delegation from China came to the UK to look into hospice and palliative care, leading to their keen interest in also adopting the app. As John said:
“Without really doing much marketing, our app is starting to get a worldwide distribution and get pushed out into different countries, which is amazing to us. It’s something we really want to do now – push it out worldwide, not just in the UK.”
The urgent need for palliative care education
Gail Linehan is the Director of Care Services and Strategy Development at St Raphael’s. Having worked as a nurse all her life and in hospice care since 1998, she spoke with great authority about the pressing need for the service their new app provides:
“By 2050, we are expecting to see the elderly population nearly double. And that elderly population is going to have three or more things wrong with them, outside of the fact that they are dying – maybe they’ll have high blood pressure, or glaucoma, heart conditions, respiratory conditions – as well as perhaps a cancer diagnosis. So the demand for staff that understand how to support this quite complex group of people is going to increase.
“At the same time, you will have heard in the news all about the difficulties in nursing numbers. We’re not training enough nurses, and the attrition rate of nurses leaving the profession is increasing. So actually getting the right quality of staff to be able to deliver the right quality of care in any setting is going to be an increasing problem for all healthcare sectors.
For both of these reasons, there is a huge need for education on palliative and end of life care. Within England and absolutely internationally – because there are some countries who don’t have formal education at all about end of life care.”
How does the Beezer app fit into all this?
“The real beauty of having this app is this: because staffing is absolutely key in all healthcare sectors, releasing staff to attend formal face-to-face teaching is now something that is becoming really, really difficult. Not necessarily the cost, although that’s a big part of it, but actually releasing staff to attend, because the staffing of units, wards, and nursing homes is becoming more and more difficult. So to be able to provide people with a quality product for training and education, that can be supported remotely, is a win-win.
The fact that it’s an app that can be shared quite simply and accessed easily is a real positive, too. Because it’s not complicated to use, people can access it as and when. Even those people who may not necessarily be particularly IT-savvy will have something that they can access and utilize to support their education.”
And the benefits of the app really are hard to overstate.
With all the challenges that are headed our way in the field of palliative and end-of-life care, it will only become more critical to have a simple, easy-to-use, and easily distributed tool for educating nurses and care workers without disrupting their workday.
And of course, as Gail points out, the beneficiaries of a good education in palliative care extend beyond the nurses, to the patients themselves: “being able to provide something that very gently but quite comprehensively informs learning and the gaining of knowledge and information to support a high level of care is something that I think is really positive. And when nurses and care staff are informed and equipped to give high-quality care, of course the patients benefit from that.”
St Raphael’s educational app provides users with a wealth of information, along with a series of components that come with questions that can be answered. The answers will be submitted to the team at St Raphael’s for grading, who will then issue app users a competency grade on the basis of their responses.
And working on this app has gotten the team excited about other apps they might be able to make. One idea that they are eager to pursue is an app for use by their patients, which will contain meditations and other helpful video courses and wellness modules for use after or outside of the patients’ wellness classes in the Hospice.
Here at Beezer, we’re proud to be supporting such important work – so much so, that we have offered our platform to St Raphael’s free of charge. We’re excited about what the future of our partnership will bring.
Check out St Raphael’s website for more information about the work they are doing. St Raphael’s is a charity. It costs them £6M a year to run the Hospice and they only receive £1.5M from the NHS – which means they could use your support! Chip in here.