Rachel Bucknall grew up always wanting to be a nurse. She did her training at Liverpool’s Sefton General Hospital in the mid 1960s and worked in many different departments all over the country. Later in her career she became particularly interested in palliative care and took on the role of Clinical Nurse Specialist covering six community hospitals in Derbyshire. Frustrated by the direction of the NHS in the mid 1990s and looking for a new challenge, Rachel applied to St Richard’s as Patient Services Manager on the retirement of Sheila Gilbert. Her job was “to take St Richard’s into the 21st century”. One of the first things she did was to introduce IT and the collection of data, so that St Richard’s had a way of measuring clinical outcomes.
In this wide-ranging interview, Rachel talks about her role at St Richard’s managing a staff of about 80, the development of hospice services in the late 90s and early 2000s, and the planning of a new in-patient unit. Rachel, along with Jeannie Young, was instrumental in the design of the new hospice, visiting many other hospices before deciding on the best plan. She talks about her involvement in the project from the digging the first turf to its official opening shortly before her retirement in 2007.
During Rachel’s initial training, the subject of death was barely touched upon. ‘There was no softly touchy feely approach, you just had to get on with it’, she says but she realised from an early stage that patients and their families were not given proper support. In this first extract, she describes attitudes in the 60s and 70s, her visit to St Christopher’s, and later her application to St Richard’s.
Once Rachel had got her feet under the table at Rose Hill, she was faced with a number of challenges. By this time St Richard’s had a number of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS’s) who looked after patients in their own homes. In this next extract, Rachel explains the role of a CNS and then elaborates on the challenges they faced in the mid 90s and how they got round them.
One of the first changes Rachel initiated was a system for collecting data so they could statistically show that the services provided by St Richard’s were making a difference. Here Rachel talks about how she settled in.
By the early 2000s, the hospice was expanding and developing on every front but many Worcestershire people still didn’t know about its services. Rachel recalls the moment when that started to change.
As the profile of St Richard’s developed, so did the plan to build a bedded unit. Rachel says that there was extensive support for the idea and when it finally came before a governor’s meeting in 2003, there was complete agreement to do it. In this final extract, Rachel explains how she and Jeannie Young spent months looking at the design of other hospices and ultimately coming up with the blue-print for their own new hospice.