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I write as a volunteer at Pilgrims in Canterbury who is horrified at the trustees’ decision to stop inpatient care in 2016. Before the hospice opened in 1982 we volunteers, trained by community nurses and social workers, offered basic support to cancer patients through night and day sitting services in the home. This care in the community was welcome and much appreciated, but was only a precursor to the local inpatient provision that had been the driving vision of the founders. Community care provision in the home has no doubt improved over the intervening three decades. Nonetheless, the decision to revert to what was an interim provision appears perverse. The Queen Mother said at the official opening:

“I pray that all who come here, whether as patients or members of staff, will find happiness and peace of mind.”

That has certainly proved the case for the past 32 years, and the gratitude of families and friends continues to underline what a needed and appreciated provision this is. Care in the home is often not enough – 24-hour inpatient care, evidenced by so many comments on the online petition, is needed. The respite service, giving caring relatives a well-earned break, is also highly valued. I accept increasing provision of hospice-at-home teams and the spreading of day care services beyond the hospice is admirable. This will require funding – but not at the expense of our local inpatient facility. As volunteers listening to patients’ worries and concerns, we are very aware that the inpatient provision close at hand offers them security should their condition suddenly deteriorate. The journey for patients in extreme need between the environs of Canterbury and its villages and the Ashford or Margate hospices could be taxing. Relatives who wish to visit may also face difficult journeys. Having travelled between Canterbury and the Ashford hospice regularly for more than a year, I take issue with the trustees’ extremely optimistic estimate of access within 35 minutes.

The people of Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Dover and the villages value the hospice, as demonstrated by their wonderful fundraising efforts on its behalf. Letters and warm words of thanks are received daily. We hope that the thousands of messages supporting retention of the Canterbury hospice will continue through the media and online. Maybe together we can all encourage the trustees to rethink their ill-conceived decision.

Mrs Keren Tattersall, Hospice volunteer, Oaks Park, Rough Common

Herne Bay Gazette, May 15th 2014

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