Five minutes with…Declan Carroll, CEO of Peace Hospice Care

Five minutes with…Declan Carroll, CEO of Peace Hospice Care
Published: 13 May 2020

Declan Carroll is a highly experienced Chief Executive with significant senior management experience gained in the Registered Social Landlord, private housing, care, support and charity sectors. Five years ago, Declan was appointed as the Chief Executive of Peace Hospice Care.  

Sandra Hamovic, Principal Consultant in our Not for Profit practice talks to Declan about the impact of COVID-19 on the hospice and how he, as Chief Executive, is leading as they work to find a different approach to delivering quality end-of-life care through the crisis.

What are the particular challenges facing the hospice movement during the COVID-19 crisis?

Hospices may be better prepared than most to respond to the current crisis, and the larger health care system may have much to learn from our expertise and resilience. The unique and multi-faceted skill sets that hospice providers bring to bear are particularly relevant to the realities of this pandemic.  Pandemic or no, hospices need more clinical and support staff to meet the rising demand for our services. Many hospices operate on slim margins, with very little space to absorb the financial impact that COVID-19 is presenting us with right now.

How are you addressing these challenges from a leadership perspective?

Our Business Continuity Plan and skill has come into play since the start of this pandemic, with daily Gold Command team meetings with the leadership team to address how we are responding.  I have a strong executive team and now, more than ever, pulling the team together is tested daily and ensuring the skills across the team are working through some of the solutions to the challenge.  It’s important to ensure consistent communication with the Chair of Board, and other Trustees, to assure them we are managing risks and challenges safely.  We have considered the financial impact through a revised 2020/21 budget looking at short, medium and long-term scenario planning and risk mitigation strategies. Our priorities through these challenges are the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers, patients and families.

Are there any innovations you’re harnessing to try and cope with the challenges presented to you?

The immediate focus on need, on getting things done and getting them done quickly, has led us to adapting the way we work and how we deliver care and support – this I feel would have taken longer in other ‘normal’ times. Collaboration continues to be key to the speed at which we need to harness innovation. The pace of innovation has rapidly increased and a breakthrough in the use of digital technology has been ’mostly for the best’. 

What has been the effect on your workforce and volunteers?

Our staff and volunteers are our biggest asset and continue to be at the heart of our hospice, and I am so grateful and impressed with how they have adapted and responded to this pandemic. We are grateful for the introduction of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme and like most charities and businesses, this has enabled us to furlough approximately 34% of our workforce, mainly non-clinical staff. The hospice has, with its strong reserves position, been able to continue to pay staff the additional 20% of their salary, so they are not financially disadvantaged at this difficult time. We are using new ways to keep in contact with staff, both those at work, working from home and furloughed, through weekly hospice wide team ‘elevenses’ and this continues to support staff and deal with any ongoing anxiety and reassurance they need – Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become the new norm.  Our volunteers are key to our success, and as a vast majority are in the vulnerable category, we have decided to ask all volunteers to stay safe at home for now.  We have set up a volunteer helpline where anyone can call for advice, support or just to say hello as we recognise the isolation that COVID-19 will cause – we look forward to welcoming our staff and volunteers back to the hospice soon and when it is safe to do so.

What has been the effect of the crisis on your funding and income streams and what assistance has been made available - or not?

81% of our income is driven through our shops and fundraising activity and we have seen this fall over the cliff overnight.  We continue to receive 19% of our funding through the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, which obviously goes some way to funding our ‘new’ clinical model of care and support.  We have welcomed the announcement from the Treasury of financial support to charities and through Hospice UK up to £200 million has been made available to hospices in the UK to help support financial impact in Quarter 1 of 2020/21.  Business Rate Grants from the Local Authorities where we have charity shops has been welcome and, of course, we are seeing donations continue from the community we support and an increase in Trust fund support.

What can the public do to support your charity during this time?

The local community has given us fantastic support - donations, messages of support – we are very grateful – but we need their continued support:

  • monetary donations are much needed and via our website: www.peacehospicecare.org.uk/donate
  • donating unwanted items – bringing them to our charity shops when they are open again and look out for our mobile donation station at the hospice
  • sharing our news on social media and asking them to continue to talk about, and share, our work and the impact of COVID-19 so we continue to get increased support.

In your opinion, what are you expecting the long-term impact on the hospice sector to look like following COVID-19? Specifically, what opportunities do you think will arise for the sector as a result of the crisis?

The sector itself needs to embrace the positive change and fight to stop a slow slide backwards as much it can. Sadly, some hospices could undoubtedly close as a result of the virus and the financial impact. This will have significant impact on the communities they serve providing quality end of life care.  There is an opportunity for hospices to continue to be more collaborative and build on the trust developed through this challenge, this may see more mergers and joint collaboration and sharing of central support services in the sector. 

Our NHS Commissioners should appreciate more the value of our work going forward, in the way we have responded and delivered good end of life care.  This may lead to increased NHS funding – although this is probably sometime off.  We will be even more resilient as a sector and we should be proud of the way we have embraced new ways of working and should have confidence in these new ways and continue with them.

The sector has the opportunity to build new partnerships and embrace the chance to rethink how they are formed and how they can best deliver on their mission. This will lead to hospices working at greater pace, with more innovation and more closely with the communities they serve, governments becoming better partners and the public becoming more enthusiastic about our work.

Sandra Hamovic is a Principal Consultant in the Not for Profit Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in hospices, health and social care charities, recruiting across all functional areas and at Chief Executive level.

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