Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive of St Ann’s Hospice in Greater Manchester, writes about being featured on the BBC’s News at Ten earlier this month.
It sounds simple. A national BBC TV crew would like to come and film your charity. You are an open and transparent organisation, and you are proud of what you do, so it should be an easy decision to make. After all, it would be a great way to raise awareness, especially on such a high profile national stage.
But, whilst all of the above is true, as Chief Executive of a hospice, there is a lot more to consider. Our duty of care to our patients and their families is always the most important thing to us. They are at the centre of the St Ann’s family, and when making decisions, we always think about what it will mean to them.
Dominic Hughes is the BBC’s national health correspondent and Lesley Day is Dominic’s producer. Both are extremely professional journalists, who operate with great integrity and thoughtfulness. So, we were delighted when we heard they were interested in coming to film at St Ann’s Hospice. They wanted to look at everything we do, dispel some of the myths around hospice care and find out more about what goes on in a modern hospice environment. We are proud to offer world class care, and to be leading the way in lots of exciting, innovative projects and collaborations in the palliative care and end of life fields. To have our work noticed and recognised in this way was real testament to the amazing team of staff and volunteers we have working with us.
Having worked in television and the media for many years, I am very aware that often time pressures mean that news production is a quick process. The fast-changing news agenda, along with production deadline pressures, means that you often have just a matter of hours to get under the skin of a story, carry out the relevant filming, and edit it ready for broadcast.
It was reassuring, therefore, to hear, from the first time we met with Lesley and Dominic, that they were not planning to simply parachute into one of our hospice sites, film a couple of quick interviews, grab some general shots and leave again. They understood that building relationships with staff, volunteers, patients and their families was incredibly important, to understand fully what happens inside a hospice. They also showed a compassionate understanding for what it means to film with people who are receiving end of life or specialist palliative care at a very vulnerable time. That is why I was very happy to say yes and allow them exclusive access into what happens at St Ann’s.
I was grateful that Dominic and Lesley, along with their camera man Steve, were really keen to tell the full story of hospice care. Many people think that hospices are places people come to at the very end of their life, and while that is true, we also support people in many other ways. We are there to care for patients right from the point of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond, and provide a broad range of services, from day care, complementary therapies and medical clinics, to community based services, hospice at home visits and counselling. We help people with a huge variety of life-limiting illnesses too, such as cancer, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s.
Dispelling myths around hospice care is something we feel really passionate about and by working with Lesley and Dominic over many months, we are pleased they have been able to show that hospices are not scary, sad places, but are full of people committed to improving the lives of those who need our help.
The team created several pieces looking at different elements of hospice life, which aired in various places across the BBC. If you want to catch up, one of the pieces that the team created is still online here
For more information visit St Ann’s Hospice