In response to the unprecedented pressures of the pandemic, Rowcroft Hospice’s Director of Patient Care Gill Horne is going the extra mile to ensure that local patients can receive the vital care they need. Gill is donning her hiking boots and walking 1000 miles during the course of the year, in a fundraising challenge to raise much-needed funds for the hospice and to raise awareness of the immense pressures that the charity is facing. Here Gill explains what has motivated her to undertake this amazing feat and what’s inspiring her to keep on going.
“My plan is to walk a total of 1000 miles throughout the rest of the year, completing my thousandth mile by 31 December,” says Gill. “By doing this walk, I hope to raise awareness of our plight as a hospice and to raise vital funds to help us care for people with life-limiting illnesses in South Devon.
“As a hospice nurse, I have witnessed the huge impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on those living and dying from life-threatening illnesses. The enormous challenges that the pandemic has posed for the hospice team have been overwhelming at times, especially with regard to the increased demand for our services. Our community referrals have increased by 60%, and referrals to our Hospice at Home service (which provides compassionate care to patients at home during their last two weeks of life) have increased by 30%. There have been terribly difficult times when we’ve been unable to help everyone in need – simply because we don’t have enough staff to cope with the high volume of referrals.
“In all the time I’ve been with Rowcroft, I’ve never before seen such urgent need. People are in such desperate need for compassionate care. Care that offers a face, understanding, a listening ear, hope, and help to relieve complex symptoms. Care that provides emotional and social support to patients and their families. While Rowcroft’s devoted teams are working tirelessly to provide this type of care, the increasing demand has put great pressures on our services and has led us to launch our Hospice at Home Appeal. This appeal hopes to raise essential income to recruit more nurses and healthcare assistants, so that we can care for more families in need across South Devon, from Dartmouth to Dawlish and up onto Dartmoor. We hope to be able to support more patients at home in their last two weeks of life, and give family carers a desperately needed break and rest.”
Gill has devoted her life to caring for others. In her early career as a district nurse, she discovered how rewarding it was to be able to provide expert care, comfort and compassion to people who were dying at home. This triggered a new focus on hospice and palliative care, the field in which she has worked for 27 years, with the last 11 years dedicated to Rowcroft Hospice.
“Being able to support patients and their families at such a critically important time for them is such a privilege,” explains Gill.
Over the years, Gill has provided palliative and end-of-life care to patients in both England and Canada, in hospices, the community, hospitals and people’s homes. And in her holidays, she volunteers in a hospice in Jinja, Uganda. It is Gill’s unwavering commitment to delivering high quality hospice care that has motivated her to take action through this latest fundraising challenge, walking in all weathers – including snow – on Dartmoor and along sections of the South West coastal path.
“I’ve always been a keen walker, but I’ve never walked this far before in a year,” says Gill. “I’ve been walking roughly 21 miles each week, which on work-days is quite a challenge so I have to make up for it at weekends and holidays. I’ve just reached the 300-mile mark. At 60, I do get a bit achy at times, but it’s certainly keeping me fit and I’m glad to be doing my bit to raise funds for the hospice during such a crucial time.”
Gill’s fundraising target of £500 is spurring her on, and the donations just keep on coming. If you’d like to sponsor Gill, you can do so via her Just Giving page at: www.justgiving.com/gillian-horne3