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WHEN HOSPICES AND HUMANITARIAN AID COMBINE: ellenor and The British Red Cross Join Forces for End of Life Care 

The British Red Cross is working with ellenor hospice in Kent on a new specialised transport service for people in end of life care. The Red Cross’s Palliative and End of Life Care (PEoLC) Transport Service, launched in December 2023.  

Funded by the Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board (ICB), the collaboration aims to provide a specialised transportation service for end-of-life care and vulnerable patients. This includes individuals with life-limiting illnesses, as well as those in the final stages of life. ellenor, a key recipient of this service, witnesses firsthand its profound impact on patients and families during critical moments. 

The project addresses a key need for local Kent and Medway hospices: ensuring the safety and comfort of patients as they’re moved from one location to another. 

With the British Red Cross’s help, end-of-life patients will be prioritised – a service that traditional ambulance services try to provide. This will facilitate a smooth, seamless, and stress-free transition between healthcare facilities, or between the patient’s home and the hospital. This form of patient-centred, empathy-led transport places the patient at the heart of its approach. It costs hospices nothing. 

Katrina Mcintosh of the British Red Cross Ambulance support said: “Our service is not just about getting people from one place to another, it's about providing compassionate care at a time when patients can feel a range of emotions. We are here to provide support for people who are often very vulnerable. For many of those we transport, being moved from one location to another can be traumatic, unsettling and emotional. A smooth transition is a small but important part of their patient journey and our specially trained crews are pleased to be able to help to make the experience as comfortable as possible ,we're proud to be working with ellenor and other local hospices to provide this new service that aims to respect every patient journey, and support patients and their loved ones with the kindness and empathy they need and deserve.” 


For example, while the vast majority of ellenor’s care occurs in the community, some patients chose the inpatient ward (IPW) for end of life care, while others are temporarily admitted for observation before returning home.  This patient flow underscores the need for specialised transportation and support tailored to their unique needs and vulnerabilities.  


“Working with the British Red Cross has had a huge impact on our work,” explains Linda Cahill, ellenor’s Operational Lead for Adult Community Services, “and on our patients, their families, and how we’re able to manage them as they approach end-of-life. “It means our patients can get a very dignified transfer into the hospice if they need to.” 

The Red Cross is known for humanitarian aid, with The Oxford Dictionary defining humanitarian as “concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare”. But ask Chris Dyson – the Operational Lead of ellenor’s IPW – what makes the British Red Cross’s collaboration with Kent’s hospices a humanitarian effort, and her response is impassioned. 

“Put simply, it’s because there’s nobody else to do it. People automatically think that humanitarian efforts only apply to foreign aid. However, the reality is that humanitarian aid begins right here at home, on our own doorstep.” 

So, what does the British Red Cross’s PEoLC Transport Service look like in practice? Chris tells the story of Barbara, an 89-year-old life-limited patient who entered ellenor’s IPW for end-of-life care. Tragically, however, Barbara’s husband – also bedbound – was still at home, unable to visit her as she lay in the hospice facing the final few days of her life without her life partner. 

The British Red Cross were able to collect Barbara’s husband from his home, in his PJs, and transport him to ellenor’s IPW to reunite with his wife in her final moments. 

It wouldn’t be possible, Chris explains, were it not for the punctuality, urgency, and speed at which the British Red Cross got involved. 

“We had an exact timeframe: we knew what time the British Red Cross were collecting Barbara’s husband, and when they’d be here, so we could make sure she was ready. If we were made to wait for our allocated day, we’d have missed the boat. Because the following Tuesday, Barbara passed away.” 

The British Red Cross has also helped ellenor relocate bedbound patients from one floor of their home to another or move them to another mattress. Without this support, ellenor would’ve had to call in the fire brigade. “They’ve completely revolutionised how we can move and manage patients,” Linda adds. 


“Also,” Chris adds, “if we ask them to take a patient to a hospital appointment, they stay with that patient. They don’t leave them and go do something else and come back when they’re ready. “Plus, they’re really cheerful, good people. They come in, introduce themselves, and quickly find common ground with the patients and nurses. Often, a patient is sent somewhere they’re not used to, with people they don’t know. But by the time they come back, they’re having a joke, and talking about what wonderful people the British Red Cross’s staff are!” 

So far, the pilot has been a resounding success; and, six months into its run, is already demonstrating that this form of compassionate, patient-focused, non-emergency transport isn’t just a luxury – but an essential component of the health and social care system. 

What’s more, there’s plenty of scope going forward to keep developing the pilot to fit the needs of ellenor’s patients and their families – providing the programme’s funding is renewed at the end of May 

There are already discussions, for instance, around how the British Red Cross’s Palliative and End of Life Care (PEoLC) Transport Service could be used to facilitate transportation for bereaved family members to and from a funeral service they’d be otherwise unable to attend; or enable a patient’s relatives to accompany them to outpatient appointments. 

“In a short period of time we have already seen the immense benefit this service brings to our patients, and we would love for it to continue,” says Chris/ “Their dedication and compassion have made a significant difference in the lives of those we care for, ensuring they receive the support and dignity they deserve during such critical moments.”