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Hospice team honoured at prestigious BMJ awards

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Hospice team honoured at prestigious BMJ awards

A Hospice team’s efforts have been recognised with a Highly Commended Award for their work in promoting corneal donation.

St Nicholas Hospice Care, which cares for those in the final stages of their lives across the West Suffolk community, had been shortlisted in the British Medical Journal’s 2017 awards.

Having been nominated in the Palliative and Hospice Care Team of the year category, the award recognises the work that Dr Sarah Mollart, a consultant in palliative medicine, and her team have been doing to promote cornea donation.

Dr Mollart said: “It feels brilliant to have been shortlisted for this award. It is just fantastic recognition for the whole team, and we hope it will help raise awareness of cornea donation, and most importantly the fact that a lot of people have a choice about cornea donation.”

Cornea disease and injury is a major cause of blindness in the United Kingdom but transplants which can restore sight are limited by a cornea shortage.

In recent years awareness of cornea donation has increased, but the figures still show that although around half of hospice patients could donate, very few of them do.

Before the team started their work, the number of cornea donations made by those cared for by the hospice was virtually zero. However in the first 20 months of the team’s intervention work, which began in July 2015, the number of people donating rose to 40 (80 corneas).

Dr Mollart said: “When we started our conversations about cornea donation with our patients and families, the majority responded very positively.

“We raised the issue with them gently and provided all of the information they needed to make an informed choice.

“Even the few people who said the conversation was upsetting were clear that they were glad to have the conversation, and appreciated that they had been given the opportunity to make their own choice.”

Since July 2015 all of the hospice’s inpatients have been screened to see if they may be eligible to donate their corneas should they wish to. If this is the case information is provided.

For those discharged from inpatient care wishes around cornea donation are communicated to the hospice’s community teams who will continue caring for them.

“After one donation, the family told me they would never regret the decision to donate their loved one’s corneas, because ‘he would have been chuffed to bits to know he was continuing to help someone else.’

“While donating their corneas may not be a decision everyone feels they can make, by taking about it openly and giving people the facts people are more open to discussion,” said Dr Mollart.

Now in their ninth year, the BMJ awards celebrate the inspirational work done by healthcare teams.