A Hospice CEOs 6 key learnings on how to put community at the heart of hospice care

As a Chief Executive of Strathcarron Hospice, I have had to consider whether community development is going beyond what we were set up to do.

We know that the earlier people engage with hospice care the better their lives could be*, and through community development, we hope to normalise connecting to a hospice and take away the fear. We also know that people become socially isolated and die socially before they die physically.

Bereaved people need someone to listen to them and our agenda is to quietly prompt communities to think about who has dropped out of activities and interactions because of their deteriorating health, so how can they continue to involve and stay in touch with people? How can people support their bereaved to return to the community activities they were once part of?

What we have learned on this journey to put communities at the heart of the Hospice Movement?

  1. What’s important to a community is what they think is important - it’s their agenda, not ours.
  2. The importance of “staying in our lane” and doing what only we can do – which is specialist palliative care. We have had to learn how to stand back, rather than take over.
  3. Not to medicalise the things that are normal – for example, most bereavement support naturally belongs within communities.
  4. Not to enrol people as ‘volunteers’. Community is about neighbours helping each other. They don’t need PVG clearance, two references, a food handling certificate or a formal risk assessment.
  5. A hospice has a convening role; we are good at hosting, and that we give legitimacy. We can invite people to the discussion and because of our brand and reputation, people will turn up.
  6. Your community development team may know all about Asset Based Community Development – but what about the rest of the staff? You need to bring the rest of the hospice team with you and transfer that way of working and thinking across the whole organisation.

The webinar describes how we have used the ABCD process as a transferable way of looking at our day care service and transforming it into a new service called Live Your Life.

Our approach has developed and the power dynamic has changed – it’s about understanding what is strong, not what is wrong in communities.

We believe community development has helped Strathcarron Hospice put communities at the heart of our efforts, to support people to live well right up to the end, not as passive recipients, but as active producers of their own well-being.

Irene McKie, Chief Executive, Strathcarron Hospice

Click to watch the Webinar: Webinar

Click to download the Evaluation Report: Evaluation Report


*the lives of up to *80% of people who die could have improved quality of life, benefiting from palliative care as early as the period of first diagnosis of their illness. Ref taken from: Palliative care from diagnosis to death | The BMJ