Geraldine and Laura had both been discussing for some time the willingness of healthcare staff to go that ‘extra mile’ in the delivery of care, and who encapsulate the ‘P’ in personalised care. Admiring those who are creative when preparing care plans, and who make the little things matter; fully reflecting the 6Cs. Individuals who show care and compassion in how they look after patients, and find the courage to expand the boundaries of their role description.
Whilst discussing examples that reflected our vision of such care we were drawn to a storyline from the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan, where a dying patient’s wish to see and bid farewell to her beloved horse, Bronwen, who she had looked after from a foal. The amazing picture of this touching moment was tweeted by the Trust’s chief executive and struck a chord with a huge audience. The story has reached more than 46 million people on Facebook and was to be seen on national television, radio and newspapers globally.
The sadness of that picture showing this final goodbye and the highlighting of personalised care ensured positive press for the healthcare sector, and we were keen to explore the journey that had led to this moment by speaking with the Wigan team who had made it a reality. We had the privilege of meeting the Wigan deputy director of nursing, Pauline Law, and the bereavement nurse, Gail Taylor who worked with the staff on the surgical ward to make the patients wish a reality . They recounted how initial thoughts to enact the plan had been married to an apprehension driven by the rhetorical question ‘we can’t do this, can we?’ This opened a window to a new world of enquiry and decision which we believe showed both courage and compassion rolled up to become an unstoppable force.
Gail had initially discussed options and started to examine the practicalities, sharing these thoughts with Pauline who stated she would take responsibility. This was an amazing response, and Pauline readily admitted that as events unfolded and the meeting because a reality she was both entranced by the moment but also nervous as she considered what could go wrong!
As the scene unfolded no one could have envisaged the emotional response from the horse to his human adopted mother and friend. This was further enhanced by the forward thinking of the patient’s daughter who brought a second horse to help put Bronwen at ease and create an atmosphere of calm. The horse approached the patient, kissed her gently, eyes transfixed on his long-time companion. Staff reported that a smile crossed the face of the patient and that she emanated an air of contentment. Everyone was drawn to tears as they watched this bond of love and the sharing of a final goodbye. The bereavement nurse who led this journey captured the moment for the patient’s daughter as these amazing memories were created.
With the continued care and compassion of the ward staff, and her daughter at her side, the patient passed away peacefully only a few hours later.
Whilst the personalised care and compassion of this story has captured the attention of the general public in an unprecedented way we are aware that this is not an isolated instance. Stories with a similar ethos to this occur every day across the healthcare sector but often go unnoticed.
It was this in mind that we wanted to design a platform to share these beacons of good practice and create a mosaic of individual moments of personalised care that will highlight that, despite the many pressures thrown at us, our health and social care professionals remain truly caring with the patient at the heart of all we do.