It’s tucked away; it’s easy to miss. But a bit like your family or your best friend, you know it’s there in the hard times. St Cuthbert’s Hospice, just off the A167 at Neville’s Cross, Durham, is one of the strengths of the city and its community.
Since 1988, it’s been offering palliative care for people with life limiting illnesses. It recently hit the headlines nationally when it became the first hospice in the country to employ a specialist dementia nurse, who will offer support and guidance to carers of people with dementia in the local community.
You may think it’s all doom and gloom inside the hospice, but the atmosphere is light and positive. Susan Greaves, whose husband Ted died at the hospice a year or so ago, said: “You would expect it to be a very solemn and dour place but in fact when you walked through the door, you could feel it in the air – the peace and caring that emanated from it was so tangible. The staff were wonderful, they would do anything for you.”
Our latest Quality Accounts show that over 48% of people who stayed in our In Patient Unit went home at the end of their stay, dispelling the myth that hospices “are only places where people go to die”.
As well as the In Patient Unit, which has ten beds, there is a day hospice offering places for seventy-five people each week. It provides a variety of services including Day Care, Outpatient Appointments, Day Treatments and Lymphoedema clinics. We also work in partnership with other specialists to provide Heart Failure Groups, Respiratory Groups and Welfare Rights clinics for patients and their carers.
We think it makes a real difference and it seems the guests agree. As well as specialist care and clinics, day guests get elevenses of healthy option nuts and fruit or tea and scones. After that, they have a freshly made lunch in our dining room. Everything is free to the user. It’s all paid for by donations mainly, with support from the NHS. We need to raise £1.3m this year to maintain our services.
The Day Guests often make deep friendships. They talk to each other and support each other. Many come month after month, some year after year. The following testimonials from guests demonstrate just how vital the hospice is to them:
Mrs JW says: “It’s been the best thing that has happened to me. They are lovely people, very kind. I have made some lovely friends and the food is excellent. Before I came here I was just at home. I look forward to coming here.”
Mrs SN agrees, stating: “Coming here helps you put things in perspective. Everyone is in similar but entirely different situations and it’s good to talk to people outside your immediate family. There is someone to help with any situation or issues you have to deal with.”
Mr KC also talks of his experience with the hospice: “It has made my life a lot better and given me a new lease of life. My one day a week when I come to life. My family know when it gets to Tuesday, I get up and go. The rest of the week, I don’t even get dressed. It is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Mr PP feels that “the hospice provides an essential lifeline to the outside world.” He explains: “I look forward to the knock at the door when the volunteer driver comes to pick me up. All volunteer drivers are very thoughtful, with a much needed sense of humour, as their wobbly passengers make their way slowly to the car or minibus. Nothing causes them to flap—even when my mobility is not at its best… My life would have a bigger hole in it, if it wasn’t for St Cuthbert’s Hospice.”
Our motto is to make every day count for the people we seek to help. We do so by making every penny count of the £1.3m we need to raise each year in donations to maintain our services.
Our reputation in the community means we are able to run successful fundraising activities including the upcoming Paws For a Cause event and Winter Wonderland Ball. We also have scores of community fundraising efforts organized by local people which are vital to our continued operation.
The fundraising is built on the reputation of St Cuthbert’s Hospice: word of mouth and first-hand experience of the service we provide.
Susan Greaves, whose support for the hospice extended to her bravely speaking in front of hundreds of women at our Midnight Walk event in June 2014, further explained the importance of the hospice for her: “Not only did we enjoy the facilities of the In Patient Unit, but prior to that my husband was sent to the day care unit. It was run by dedicated staff and volunteers. I think it meant a tremendous amount to him to know I was happy that he was being looked after. He knew I was getting tired and it gave me an opportunity to relax and have a breathing space because I knew he was safe and well cared for. I had some hours where I could just relax and be me. Without that I would have crumbled as well…I’ve continued to get support from the hospice – there’s a family support unit, counselling – without that I don’t know where I’d be today.”
St Cuthbert’s Hospice has a willing army of around 360 volunteers, including in its eight shops, but its expanding work means it is always seeking new helpers. Please contact the hospice if you think you can help, on 0191 386 1170.