St Richard’s Hospice started with one part time nurse visiting patients in their home, responding to calls for help made to a telephone in home of a GP in Droitwich. How things have grown in 30 years! Then hospice care was not an established area of healthcare; indeed, it was frowned upon my many. Today the dreams of small groups of visionary pioneers, such as our founders, across the country have become reality with the establishment of 183 charitable hospices delivering more than £500m of palliative care each year.
What is “hospice”? Hospice is a philosophy of care that aims to meet the physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs of people who are dying of cancer and other life threatening diseases, their families and carers. Hospice is delivered wherever the patient is, or wishes to be. It most certainly is not just one place or a building. That is why from the outset St Richard’s delivered care in patient’s homes.
I first heard of St Richard’s more than 20 years ago from my mother, who was part of a small local fundraising group. That group is typical of the extraordinary support that the people of Worcestershire have given to St Richard’s Hospice every year because they understand the need for hospice care. St Richard’s Hospice was created by, to support, is staffed by and is paid for primarily by the people of Worcestershire. The strength of St Richard’s is its localism, as is demonstrated by our being named after a saint born in Droitwich. The extraordinary support over 30 years from our community has been fundamental to the growth of our services.
Today we provide the full suite of hospice care. Our fourteen specialist St Richard’s Hospice Community Nurses work closely with the GP practices in South Worcestershire. They are supported by our Hospice at Home team of Healthcare Assistants, who sit in homes with patients as they approach end of life and teams of Community Volunteers who can help with the practical non-clinical matters with which the patients and their carers cannot cope. Our Day Hospice is always in demand. Pre and post death bereavement support is provided by our Family Support team of Social Workers, Counsellors and embedded Citizen’s Advice Bureau advisor, supported by trained volunteers. Our Chaplaincy team provides spiritual support to those of all faiths, and none. In 2006 we opened of our 17 bed In-Patient Unit at Wildwood Drive, Worcester. It enables us to provide more complex palliative care to patients from Worcestershire that cannot be provided in the homes.
So what does the future hold? The population and health forecasts for Worcestershire indicate that the need for our services in homes and in other community settings will increase. St Richard’s Hospice’s priority will be to expand our existing properly Coordinated Compassionate Community Care to look after them.