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Northern Ireland Hospice launches new Palliative Care Learning Academy

12 September 2018

Northern Ireland Hospice today launched its Palliative Care Learning Academy which will lead the way in the provision of specialist palliative care education and learning.

The Academy will feature new study rooms - some of which have been named after hospice movement founder Dame Cicely Saunders and Northern Ireland’s celebrated writer CS Lewis - along with a prospectus for clinical and non-clinical courses aimed at enhancing palliative care skills and knowledge.

The Academy will specialise in Palliative and End of Life Care, Spirituality, Loss, Grief and Bereavement, Symptom Management in Palliative Care, Communication Skills, Holistic Dementia Care, Legal and Ethical Issues and a range of Certificate Courses.

The Northern Ireland Hospice Palliative Care Learning Academy will be based at the Hospice’s Somerton Road premises in Belfast but will have a global influence given the planned availability of its courses online.

Having offered education services for over a decade, Northern Ireland Hospice has now identified a need for an expansion of its learning services, advocating for a palliative approach both for and beyond cancer. Through the launch of the new Academy, the well-known local charity will work with a range of organisations, professional bodies, universities and other academic providers to deliver palliative education both at Hospice, and through online learning to students internationally.

Northern Ireland Hospice CEO, Heather Weir, said: “In 2016, we opened the doors of our new Hospice on Somerton Road, returning back after a major rebuild project. Since then, we have witnessed an increased demand for our services and ever increasing complexities in terms of care requirements both in our adult and children’s hospice care services.

“These changes have required us as an organisation to take a step back and assess our readiness to provide what our community needs now and in the future. It has also highlighted the vital role we play as a specialist educator sharing this knowledge externally, supporting learners from novice to expert across multi-professional teams and for those who assume the role of a carer in our society. Sharing our knowledge and advocating for a palliative care approach for and beyond cancer is an integral part of our future plans.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “The Northern Ireland Hospice’s Palliative Care Learning Academy is an exciting new initiative that builds on the Hospice’s already significant track record in palliative care education and research.  

“The vision and ambition of the NI Hospice in extending its provision of palliative care education and learning both locally and, through its on-line presence, globally are to be commended.  Through the expansion of its learning services and the provision of accessible, flexible and high quality education in palliative care, the Palliative Care Learning Academy will play a key role in ensuring a knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate workforce as well as supporting volunteers and carers.”

Welcoming the launch of the PCLA, Northern Ireland Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle said: “Palliative care is something that I feel strongly about. There is only one opportunity to get this right so it is vitally important the care provided to people at end of life is person-centred and of high quality.  We all have role to play in the delivery of palliative care but we cannot afford to leave it all to the specialists. Most often it is a GP and nurse who coordinate this care and often times this is the district nurse. 

“This Academy is a fundamental part of the transformation of health and social care. It will help deliver excellence, good personal experience and a model that we can all be and should be proud of.  Our workforce is our biggest asset and the academy will support staff providing relevant training, learning opportunities and education right across the health and social care system.

“I would like to commend the vision and leadership of Heather Weir and the Northern Ireland Hospice team for taking this initiative forward as part of transformational journey of the Hospice.”

At the same time, Northern Ireland Hospice revealed plans for its first-ever international conference, to take place next year. Speaking about the conference, NI Hospice Dementia Lead Joanne Ballentine said: “In 2016, we took a leading role in developing a Hospice Enabled Dementia Partnership, bringing together professionals and individuals with Dementia to improve access to Specialist Palliative Care for people with Dementia.

“Building on this work, we identified an opportunity to sharing our learnings with a global audience.  The Inaugural International Conference on Palliative Dementia Care will marry these two core disciplines together from a caring perspective in a conference setting for the first time.”

The 2019 ICPDC will be held in Belfast from 8-10th May, at the Waterfront Hall. It will bring together authoritative voices from across the world to share learnings and knowledge with clinical and non-clinical professionals, advocating for a palliative care approach in caring for those with end stage dementia. Over 300 speakers and delegates from across the world are expected to attend, driving increased bed nights and revenue into the city over three days.