A super-nurse who has revolutionised palliative care has won top national award.
Pioneering Dinah Hickish, the Senior Advanced Nurse Practitioner at St Kentigern Hospice, in St Asaph, took gold at the prestigious Wales Care Awards, the Oscars of the social care sector.
She has earned glowing praise after setting up the first nurse-led model of hospice care of an inpatient unit in the UK.
Dinah is spearheading the initiative – thought to be the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere – which is attracting interest from across the UK and even across the globe.
At the Wales Care Awards, she won the the Excellence in Palliative and End of Life Care category, sponsored by Barclays Corporate.
The glittering ceremony at City Hall, in Cardiff, was hosted by TV newsreader Lucy Owen. The event was organised by Care Forum Wales and sponsored by Barclays Bank.
Dinah said: “The awards ceremony was lovely and it was very exciting – there was a bit of nerves on the night.
“I’m very proud to represent the hospice because even though I won the award, it’s a team effort at the end of the day.
“The standard of competition in my category was very high, so I was extremely pleased to get the gold because it could have been any of us.
“It was also great to see examples of wonderful work that goes on is social care throughout wales.
“It’s great for St Kentigern Hospice because it’s a recognition of the great work that goes on here from all the staff and the volunteers.
Mum of four and grandmother of one Dinah, 53, who lives in Tremeirchion, near St Asaph, said: “The role of the Advanced Nurse Practitioner was created over a decade ago and allows nurses to do many of the tasks that their medical colleagues do.
“I can admit patients, clinically assess them, initiate a programme of care and as a non-medical prescriber I can prescribe the treatments necessary for them.
“There are a lot of hospices that are employing Advanced Nurse Practitioners, now. That is happening more and more, but at St Kentigern Hospice we’re pretty unique at the moment being wholly nurse-led.
“I think the nurse led hospice is definitely pushing the boundaries of what can be done with the role. I think that the Advanced Practitioner role works exceedingly well in the hospice environment.
“We do have support from medical colleagues, and St Kentigern Hospice is very grateful that our model of care is supported by consultants from the Betsi Cadwaladr Trust. We are also supported by general practitioners with palliative care experience.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the nurse led model. We’ve even had a hospice from New Zealand get in touch to ask about it.
“We’ve broken barriers – and still are – but there remain some who are still a little sceptical. However, referrals arrive from consultants, general practitioners as well as the specialist palliative care team, so they appear to have confidence in how St Kentigern Hospice operates
“Interestingly, perhaps because we are all nurses working together in the inpatient unit the amount of patients we look after is much greater, than under the previous model. Our bed occupancy is actually much higher now and our length of stay is less.
St Kentigern is an eight-bed in patient hospice which has 15-place day therapy facilities and provides “excellent” end of life care and symptom control for those with life-threatening and terminal illness, but has to rely on 80 per cent of its income from the generous donations of the public.
The nurse-led model has attracted praise from care expert Dr Heather Richardson National Clinical Lead for the UK-wide Help the Hospices, who believes this ground-breaking model could be rolled out across Britain.
She said: “I see real opportunities for nurse led respite care and palliative rehabilitation, particularly when such an approach is part of a multi-disciplinary approach to assessment of needs, plans for, and delivery of care.
“With anticipated increases in demand for care, requirements for increasingly flexible models within a context of finite resources, hospices must think carefully about how they maximise on the skills and expertise of their clinicians.
St Kentigern Hospice manager Joyce Bellingham, added: “Dinah uses her knowledge with her Senior Advanced Nurse Practitioner skills to ensure that all patients receive the care and dignity that they deserve.
“She works closely with the families to ensure that they are all involved in the care and understand fully the situation and what is being done so that their loved one is as comfortable as possible.
“Her aim is to ensure that good symptom control is reached and that the patient is able to enjoy what time they have left.”
Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said there was a record number of nominations and the standard was extremely high.
He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.
“We take our hats off to them.”