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Shock, sadness… and fears donations could fall away

THINK AGAIN
SAVE OUR HOSPICE – SPECIAL REPORT

David Denne, a former chairman of the fundraising committee, has called the decision disastrous
David Denne, a former chairman of the fundraising committee, has called the decision disastrous

Bosses at Canterbury’s Pilgrims Hospice are under mounting pressure to rethink the planned closure of the 16-bed care unit. They claim the charity-run centre, which opened in 1982, is “no longer fit for purpose” and closing it will save £500,000 a year. Instead, they want to expand hospice care in the community, with staff visiting patients in their own homes, nursing homes and hospitals. But there has been a massive backlash to the announcement, with an online petition callIng for the unit to be saved gaming more than 15,000 signatures. A Save Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury Facebook page has also been set up and already has more than 12,000 supporters. Staff and volunteers are said to be shocked at the decision, which many say they had not been consulted on and were only told of last week. Now there are fears donations to the charity could fall, with reports that some benefactors have even cancelled standing orders to the hospice. David Denne, who has helped raised funds for the hospice for 17 years and was chairman of its fundraising committee, called the decision “disastrous”. He said:

“The manner in which this news was broken in my view leaves much to be desired. To put it mildly, I was totally shocked, amazed and filled with sadness at this announcement. To cease to offer such well-funded services at our hospice is nothing other than disastrous. For over 30 years our hospice has built a truly wonderful service and is held with such loving memories of lost ones by very many local families, with nothing but warm praise to all the medical staff. Many companies have donated large sums of money over the years, let alone all the individuals who have supported it through sponsored events. It really feels that the carpet has been pulled from under our feet and that all those who have worked so hard, particularly over this period of time, have been badly let down.”

Hospice volunteer Keren Tattersall says her peers are “absolutely horrified” by the announcement and are arranging a public meeting. She said volunteers had not been consulted and it had come as a bolt out of the blue. She added:

“I accept that increasing provision of the 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 in-patient facility. But I have heard that some people are so appalled they have even cancelled their standing orders to the hospice and others have said they will not now be leaving money in their wills.”

Hospice chief executive Steve Auty says the decision was not taken lightly and the building will not be sold off
Hospice chief executive Steve Auty says the decision was not taken lightly and the building will not be sold off

The decision to close the unit is all the more baffling because work is under way on a £260.000 refurbishment of the building, following a grant from the Department of Health. The charity says it will no longer provide 16 in-patient beds at Canterbury from 2016, bringing to an end 32 years of the hospice providing end-of-life care to the terminally ill in the district. But it will continue to offer day care services from Canterbury. And its other centres in Ashford and Margate will remain open with an inpatient service. The unit at Canterbury will be “mothbailed”, but charity chief executive Steve Auty insists the site will not be sold off or abandoned. He says it will continue to be used for administration and for the training of staff and outside care providers. The charity has a monthly wage bill of £700,000 to support its three sites. There could be some redundancies among the 65 staff who work at the Canterbury unit, but most will be retrained and redeployed to work in the community.

Emotional

The hospice building will not be sold off, says the charity
The hospice building will not be sold off, says the charity

My Auty said care will now be provided in hospitals and at home, ensuring a more “expert and responsive service for more patients”. He also claims they will be able redeploy more staff into the “heart of the communities in east Kent”. Mr Auty said:

“This is a decision we have not taken lightly because we know the emotional attachment the Canterbury site has with local people. But of our three sites, Canterbury is the oldest and would need considerable investment in the future. There are savings by doe ing it but that has not been the driving force behind the decision and If there are any compulsory redundancies, they would only be in single figures. We have considered our future with all our staff, who we know are saddened by it too. But hospice care is not about buildings and we believe we can reach more people who need us out in the community.”

Book now for a place a public meeting

The Pilgrims Hospice will hold the first of a series of public meetings to discuss its future services at the Canterbury Academy on May 30. The meeting will be at 7pm in the school’s hall and will be chaired by MP Julian Brazier. The hall is expected to be filled to its 500 capacity, so anyone wanting to attend should register. Places will be first come, first served. Medical director Dr Claire Butler said:

“We want to fully and directly discuss with the local community our plans for Pilgrims Hospice, explain why we believe enhanced community care is needed, as well as listen to everyone’s concerns.”

If there is more interest than the school’s capacity, an additional date will be arranged. Anybody wanting to attend a meeting should leave a voice message with their name on 01227 782064 or email their details to meetingbookings@pilgrimshospices.org

MP outlines fund scheme that could spare centre

Canterbury MP Julian Brazier is urging hospice trustees to find away of keeping the Canterbury Centre open. He met with chief executive Steve Auty and two trustees an Friday and says he had a”frank discussion”. He said:

“In the meeting, the trustees outlined a vision of providing greatly enhanced services for the seven-eighths of local people who die either in hospitals or at home. While I support the vision in principle, this should not be at the expense of keeping beds in Canterbury. Of the three sites, Canterbury is by far the most accessible by public transport, especially for the one-third of the population of east Kent who live in villages. Rather than reducing Canterbury to a day and outreach centre, what is needed is to find a way of doing both. This means a new source of funding. Fortunately there may be one available, if the plans for increased outreach go ahead, by 2016 local hospitals will be able to release many more people to die well cared-for at home. The Pilgrims Hospices wants this because it is better for the people concerned, rather than leaving them languishing in hospital beds waiting for the end. But it will also take the NHS a great deal of money. So what is needed is a mechanism whereby a fraction of this saving can be paid back into the hospice movement, where they take over care, so that they can achieve the best of both worlds – keeping their in-patient facilities as well as expanding their outreach. Pilgrims Hospices is a charity and, as such, is not accountable to parliament, but I had a good and frank exchange and have made it clear that I am available to help in any possible way that can lead to keeping the in-bed facility in Canterbury.”

Bosses need to listen and think again

dOur reporter and photographer were there when the Queen Mother arrived in Canterbury to open the city’s £446,000 hospice in 1982. It had taken four years of hard work to make the dream of founder, Anne Robertson, come true. Three decades on, Canterbury’s Pilgrims Hospice is a cause close to everyone’s heart including this newspaper. We chose it as our charity of the year in 2012 and have dedicated endless newsprint to the exploits of the thousands of people who raise money for it every year and have carried the heartbreaking stories of those it has helped the with dignity. News that inpatient care at the hospice in Canterbury would be a thing of the past rocked the newsroom last Thursday. Then it dawned on us why our chief reporter had been invited to meet chief executive Steve Auty that morning.

As the news broke on our Kentonline website, it also rocked our readers who have been contacting us by phone, email and via social media. They reacted with a mixture of fury, sadness and bewilderment. Emotions have run high throughout the week. On our letters page, which starts on page 16, they question the thinking of hospice trustees and the way the announcement has been handled. They ask do people really want to die at home, do dying people and their families really want to travel to Margate and Ashford at the most stressful times of their lives and if inpatient care is right elsewhere, why not Canterbury? They want to know why anyone would abandon world-class end-of-life care. They question the worth of hastily arranged public meetings when managers are adamant the decision is made. And they ask whether it is still worth raising money for an organisation they helped to build and feel a part of. Our view is plain. Keep raising the money while we join together and ask the trustees to simply think again.

Comments were so ‘patronising’

A former chaplain of the Pilgrims Hospice has accused trustees of making inaccurate’patronising and insensitive observations. The Rev Lizzie Hopthrow, who provided pastoral care for patients and families for 10 years until 2011, says managers “would do well to listen to the wisdom of the community”. She is now calling for the unit to be kept open, albeit with fewer beds. She said:

“It has been said that travelling to Thanet or Ashford hospices would only add another 10 minutes to the journey. This is clearly not only inaccurate but also a patronising and insensitive observation. People without transport will have an inhuman struggle to visit their loved ones at a time of their greatest need. I cannot remember an occasion when a bereaved relative or friend after a death, has regretted a stay on the ward. I call for a reduced bedded ward to be retained and another way forward to be sought. The community identifies with the Canterbury ward and to close it could be detrimental to the whole organisation.”

I thought it would be a place of doom and gloom, but it was bright and welcoming… the staff went above and beyond

Mum-of-two Vicki Radford spent the last days of her husband’s life by his bedside at the hospice. Here she tells Gerry Warren why it is so important it is not closed down

aWhen Mike and Vicki Radford met through an online dating agency in 2010, love soon blossomed and they looked forward to spending the rest of their lives together. But just three years later, Mike — a 41-year-old leisure centre manager — was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Despite surgery chemotherapy radiotherapy and Mike’s iron will to beat it, he was eventually forced to accept he could not defeat the disease. As his health declined, Vicki faced the prospect of caring for Mike and their two young daughters, Molly, three, and Florence, two, at their home in Station Road, Whitstable. Staff from the Pilgrims Hospice would visit to help, but it was not until Mike was offered a bed at the centre that Vicki says they could cherish their last moments together as a family.

Nightmare

Mike and Vicki Radford on their wedding day, which they brought forward
Mike and Vicki Radford on their wedding day, which they brought forward

The 35-year-old nursery nurse said:

“I just couldn’t cope any more. Mike was 6ft 8m and when he fell, which he did quite often, I couldn’t pick him up. He had been in and out of hospital and, frankly, it was a complete nightmare. Different staff would come and go and nobody would have a clue what was wrong with him. I used to fear leaving him at night. And, apparently, cancer doesn’t exist at weekends and bank holidays for the NHS. But I was initially reluctant to let him go into the hospice. I just thought it would be a place of death and doom and gloom. In reality, it could not have been more different. It was a bright, warm, welcoming place with immense love, kindness and care. It wasn’t until then that I realised how hard and stressful looking after him and the children had been. It took the pressure off me hugely. At home our relationship had almost become nurse and patient, but suddenly I became his wife again and the children got to spend quality time with their dad. We could be a couple again, and the hospice even arranged for me to take Mike to the cinema on Valentine’s Day. When we came back, they had smothered his bed with rose petals and chocolates. They went above and beyond and even helped Mike arrange a surprise birthday party for me.”

Vicki Radford has now started a Facebook page to save the hospice
Vicki Radford has now started a Facebook page to save the hospice

The couple married in May last year, two months after Mike was diagnosed and five months earlier than they had planned. Speaking just days before what would have been their first wedding anniversary, Vicki said:

“His funeral was at All Saints Church, where we were married and he is now buried, and we had a collection for the hospice. As a family, we must have raised around £3,000 and we also bought 16 touch lamps for the centre. There is no way that kind of care could be provided in the home or hospitals. It is vital that the unit stays open and it would be a tragedy if it closed. That’s why I had to start a Facebook page to try and save it, which I am delighted, but not surprised, has had such a huge response.”

Herne Bay Gazette, May 15th 2014

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