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Hospice on Radio 4 Today Programme

26 February 2015

Dr R Taylor and Justin Webb from Today 

The work of The Hospice of St Francis and how hospices are about so much more than end of life care were the focus of a feature in February on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today, in an extended report on hospice care.

Today presenter Justin Webb visited us to speak to our Director Dr Ros Taylor, MBE, DL, in her role as Hospice UK’s National Director for Hospice Care, as well as to patients, staff and volunteers, all of whom had compelling testimonies about how hospice care has changed their lives.

“Justin’s report really captured the essence of what hospices are all about,” said Dr Taylor, “we hope it will surprise the public and help raise awareness about the range of services and conditions that are supported by hospices and how we could be the solution to many of the problems faced by people living and dying with advancing illness.”

The nine-minute feature focused on how hospices are no longer just about end of life care but how they can help people with chronic illness or recovering from surgery and how they could help with the bed crisis in our hospitals – not by providing more hospice beds but by “exporting” its care into people's homes, care homes and hospitals.

“People come and go throughout our service, we’re not just last days of life anymore,” Dr Taylor told the programme, “I don’t think we’ll ever have enough hospice beds but we can have hospice care in hospital and we need to mainstream the culture of hospice care in all settings.”

Through its Hospice Care Champions Project with Watford General Hospital and the improvements it hopes to bring about, the Hospice aims to avoid the kind of experience that Yvonne, a volunteer at the Hospice, from Dagnall, had when she’d wanted to get her dying 93-year-old mother-in-law out of hospital and into the Hospice but it didn’t work.

“She was in the wrong place,” Yvonne told Justin, “doctors said she could go, then someone would come along and say she was too frail to move and that happened again and again. The Hospice had a bed but by the time the hospital finally said she could go it was too late – the bed was gone.

“If I could have got her to the Hospice, for the sake of her dignity, her pain control and her family she would have been in a much better place.”

Justin spoke to Amanda, who is accessing a range of support from the Hospice’s health and wellbeing Spring Centre as she recovers from breast cancer.

She told him, “If I want to do a bit of tai chi and have fun and relax, if I need a massage because my shoulder is aching after surgery or to be honest if I just want to cry and not do it in front of my family and be reassured that everything will be alright, then I can do that here and they do so brilliantly for me.”

Finally, Justin spoke to 62-year-old Steve Burgin and his wife Chris at their Grove Hill home in Hemel Hempstead.

Steve, who is receiving lots of home-based support from the Hospice, including specialist nurse visits, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and respite sits since he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease last April, told Justin, “The Hospice is like a lifeline. I thought the Hospice was a place where you go to die but it’s not like that at all. It gives you a better frame of mind. It’s a better way for me to live.”

After the broadcast, Dr Taylor paid tribute to all the interviewees who took part. “We’d like to thank Amanda, Steve and Yvonne for being brave enough to share their stories and for speaking so articulately and compellingly about the impact our care has had on their lives.”

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