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Veteran doctor: ‘Please save the mother hospice’

Last week we revealed the shock news that the Pilgrims Hospice will close to inpatients by 2016. The move has sparked a mixed reaction in the days since. Gerry Warren reports

Must reconsider Martin Garsed
Must reconsider: Martin Garsed

A doctor who specialised in palliative care at the Pilgrims Hospice for 28 years has hit out at plans to close the 16-bed ward. Dr Martin Garsed is a long-term supporter and fundraiser for the charity and says Canterbury is considered the “mother hospice” in people’s minds and hearts. But while he backs more outreach hospice care, he says inpatient beds remain vital for patients with particularly complex needs. He said:

“Take an example of an elderly man who needs the care of a multi-professional team, as provided at the hospice. What if, as is perfectly possible, his 80-year-old wife has a zimmer frame and her own health problems? How is she going to get to Thanet or Ashford to visit him?”

Retired Dr Garsed, who worked at the hospice from 1982 to 2010, says he fears he will be judged as being disloyal to the charity but has been compelled to speak out on behalf of patients and families and because of his commitment to the hospice. He says the trustees and senior management have a “moral duty to explain themselves and their strategic decisions”. He is also questioning the cost of buying its neighbouring building, the consultation process with staff and volunteers and whether the organisation has become top heavy. Dr Garsed, who lives in Whitstable, said:

“The development of services for all patients and their families and the expansion of Hospice at Home has to be applauded. All of this has been possible because of the faithful committed, hard work and generous giving of the people of east Kent. I have had the privilege of caring for those who I know will increasingly need a dedicated haven of care to address the very often complex transition from life to death in a hospice bed in Canterbury, given the distances to Ashford and Margate. I ask the hospice leadership to reconsider the proposal.”


The Pilgrims Hospice will hold the first in 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 hail and will be chaired by MP Julian Brazier. The hail is expected to be filled to its 500 capacity, so anyone wanting to attend should register. 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

‘There’s nothing to fear’
A healthcare assistant with the Hospice at Home team believes the charity’s plans are “very positive” and the community has nothing to fear in the future. Avril Everden, right, visits patients in their homes around Canterbury and says they receive all the care of an inpatient. She said:

“People are scared of being left unsupported but that’s not going to happen. Generally, what Pilgrims is doing is very positive. By increasing resources for us to nurse people at home — but taking away the safety blanket of being able to see the hospice building – has caused instant panic and people can’t understand what’s happening. With the expertise available from four years of Hospice at Home, our team will be able to bring all the hospice services to patients — from nursing care to counselling, spiritual care, physiotherapy and the multidisciplinary team. They will make sure patients are comfortable and any pain is controlled in their own home. When I am with a patient, I give them a personal care phone number they can ring. When they call, I will be right there. My understanding of the new system is we will have more staff and teams on hand in the community, so when someone does ring we can be there to help. I think once we are out there people will start to feel reassured.”

Grieving rundraiser: My shock turned to empathy

eOne of the Pilgrims Hospices’ most energetic fundraisers Ella Brocklebank says she was shocked and angered by the planned loss of inpatient beds in Canterbury. The 32-year-old mum, from Chartham, who has raised more than £11,000 for the charity which nursed her dying father Stan, now believes it is the right decision. Ella completed 13 gruelling challenges for the hospice, including two marathons, two cycle rides and a 75-mile tri-hospice ride in just 12 months. She said:

“After pleading with family, friends and the local community to support my fundraising and awareness for Pilgrims Hospice, I was understandably inundated with messages following the announcement. I too was shocked, saddened and I have to admit a little angry at first. It was where my dad passed away in 2012 and will always be a place that holds very tender memories of a difficult time eased by the compassion and care of excellent doctors and nurses. But my quick judgement soon changed to understanding and empathy for Steve Auty and his team in facing such a difficult decision.”

Mrs Brocklebank is urging supporters not to turn their back or rant at the charity and says their fundraising has not been in vain. She added:

“I have complete trust that the decisions made are for the greater long-term good and this is a charity that will always have my support.”

6,600 sign Sarah’s petition.
The petition to save the hospice beds at Canterbury was started by a mum whose dying friend was cared for at the centre and buried just two days before the closure announcement. Sarah Kelly, 30, from Teynham, right, is amazed but delighted it has 6,600 signatures and says it shows the depth of concern. She launched the petition on change.org following the death of bus driver Steve Hill, who died from cancer aged just 49. Sarah, a single mum of a six-month-old boy, said:

“He was snatched away from his family by the illness in just a few weeks. But the difference in care he received at the hospice to that in hospital was huge. It made such a difference to the family. I just thought that it can’t be allowed to close, so started the petition and was almost speechless when it hit 600 signatures. Since then is has just gone from strength to strength. I can’t really believe it but it has sparked such an outcry. I’m hoping it will make a difference. The hospice beds cannot be allowed to close. The NHS should put more money into it. I just don’t understand how we can afford to spend billions on something like the Olympics but not more on providing end-of-life care.”

Herne Bay Gazette, May 22nd 2014

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