On 9th March 2020, the first patient was admitted to Fair Havens in Prittlewell, a purpose-built modern facility which had taken 65 weeks to build, but more than a decade in the planning.
The previous hospice was two converted houses in Chalkwell, which had cared for thousands of patients and family members since 1983, but was no longer fit for purpose.
Covid-19 took hold two weeks after the new hospice opened, and in the last 12 months the Care Teams, and those who support them, have faced incredible challenges that not only come with moving an entire healthcare facility, but still providing frontline hospice care during a pandemic.
Fair Havens opened all bedrooms immediately to help relieve pressure on local NHS services. Its ‘day hospice’ area – known as the Hub – was leased to help create a safe and accessible place for blood tests. The hospice even reconfigured its ‘Bistro’ area to accommodate a mass-testing programme for all staff and visitors. This is helping to detect non-symptomatic cases, protecting care staff and allowing patients to see their loved ones.
The Ward Sister
Sharon Dines joined Fair Havens in July 2018.
“What our Care Team has achieved is actually quite phenomenal. We were in a brand new building, still trying to work out where things were when the pandemic struck. There was a lot of fear. We all do infection control training but nothing quite prepares you for a virus which is unknown. The PPE guidance was changing regularly, but the staff were really resilient. They kept coming to work, looking after each other as well as the patients.
“Despite everything they’ve faced, I still see strength and hope in my team. In between the first two lockdowns in spring and summer, we could open the doors, welcome some visitors and the laughter came back. That really does inspire me to keep going because those days will come again.”
Louise McKay has been a Senior Nurse at Fair Havens for 11 years.
“I was privileged enough to be involved in the design of the rooms and the layout, and having worked in such a difficult building, I just knew exactly what we needed. When I first came here, I was blown away with how well it’s worked. The building is light, bright and clean, and the bedroom spaces are really, really lovely for the patients and their families. They have space, can see out of the windows and even wheel the chairs and beds into the garden.
“I remember being quite emotional when we first saw the first structure and footings, but actually walking in when it was completed – I just feel so honoured to work here.”
Steve Smith has been Chief Executive of Havens Hospices since August 2019.
“By the time Coronavirus took hold, we had made good progress at Fair Havens – the majority of our administration staff had been equipped with the technology which meant they could work from home within 24 hours of the announcement being made. We had passed our CQC assessment and registration with confidence and had already started caring for patients. We’d had some really positive discussions with our healthcare partners and started making plans for joint working, which Coronavirus hastened. All of us were proud of to support the NHS, with our care staff showing great bravery and resilience in such difficult conditions.
“Although we faced big discussions ahead of us, we knew that we could still put patients at the heart of these and support them as best we could.
“My one simple aim since I took the role on of CEO has been to provide more care for more people. Despite the restrictions that Covid has presented, both logistically with our buildings and how we provide care, and within our income, we are achieving this aim. We have seen patient contact rise at Fair Havens in the last 12 months by an average of 40% and this shows what we can achieve when we accept and embrace change.”
Preparations are underway to re-establish the charity’s out-patient services through the Hub, such as therapies, treatments, activities and group sessions for when lockdown restrictions and shielding advice eases. This will include using the hospice’s physiotherapy gym, hairdressing facility and complementary therapy rooms. Work will continue with the local healthcare economy to identify possible partnership working, sharing skills and experience to enhance palliative care for more people.
All of this care will remain free of charge to patients and families thanks to the generosity of the local community making
Steve Smith concludes, “If you’ve already made a donation towards the new Fair Havens, on behalf of the patients, families and nursing teams – thank you. Your gift, no matter what the size, has helped us get to where we are today – providing round-the-clock, frontline hospice care for those with complex or incurable conditions.
“But we need to ensure this continues, to protect the hospice for future generations. The Coronavirus pandemic affected our ability to raise money with the cancellation of all public events, and we’re now experiencing a 41% decrease against the income we’d planned from our fundraising activity and events.”
To make a donation or find out more about fundraising for Havens Hospices, visit www.havenshospices.org.uk
You can read more about Fair Havens for Life – One Year On here.
Published 8th March 2021