The Hospice of St Francis is celebrating a very special anniversary as it was 10 years ago this month that it moved to its purpose-built site in Spring Garden Lane.
On 22 January 2007, it opened the doors to its new multi-winged building for the first time, with the Queen’s cousin, The Duke of Kent, conducting the official opening ceremony on Friday 9 November later that year.
It had outgrown its former base - a small converted house in Shrublands Road, Berkhamsted, previously owned by the Sisters of St Francis - and the local community dug deep to help fund the £6.4 million building project.
Medical Director, Dr Sharon Chadwick, joined the old Hospice 14 years ago and remembers, “At the old Hospice we were very constrained by space. We only had eight beds and if a patient needed a single room during their stay, manoeuvring the beds along a corridor barely wide enough to accommodate a bed was a real challenge!
“There was no capacity for delivering outpatient services and parking was also extremely limited.
“Our vision was for a purpose-built building to help us expand and develop our services and to have rooms better suited for caring for our sickest patients in a peaceful, calm environment that would promote healing in the holistic sense.”
Dr Chadwick recalls the sense of excitement as the project progressed, tempered with considerable anxiety that the homely atmosphere - the old hospice’s hallmark - could be transferred to the new.
“Thanks to expert change management and close collaboration with the architect, we arrived at a plan for the very special building we have today,” she says, “we are so lucky to have such an amazing resource.”
She cited key improvements as light, airy rooms with a view and access to the seven-acre gardens; hoisting tracks over every bed and bathroom; three bathrooms equipped with specialist tilting and side-opening jacuzzi baths; increased inpatient capacity; the ability to deliver an outpatient-based service from a multi-disciplinary team of experienced nurses, specialist doctors and allied health professionals, including social workers, a chaplain and complementary therapists, and more cohesive team working between clinical and non-clinical staff.
Phil Maton, a 44-year-old husband and father from Hemel Hempstead with terminal lung cancer was the first patient to be admitted.
Phil’s widow, Penny, then 36, recalls how Phil had been in and out of the old Hospice three times since July 2006 for pain management and symptom control. “The care was amazing,” she says, “even down to Chris, the Hospice chef, preparing Phil’s favourite meal so we could celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary with our best friends.
“But the five days he spent in the new Hospice were incredible. He had his own private room, it was bright, airy and spotless, so much more spacious and all the specialist equipment to wash him and move him was available at the touch of a button. He felt privileged to be here.
After Phil passed away peacefully on Friday 26 January, his family and friends clubbed together to plant a tree in the new Hospice garden, dedicating a conifer near the Healing Garden in his name.
Inspired by the care he received, two years after his death, Penny decided to move from her previous 20 year career in care into the palliative sector and now works in the Community Nurse Specialist team.
“I’m so proud to be part of the Hospice,” she says. “I love my job and the best part is being able to give people the same love and support that we as a family received 10 years ago.”
In a decade the Hospice has:
- Strengthened its community and Inpatient Unit clinical teams, enabling it to provide care and support when it matters most to over 2,000 people a year affected by a life-limiting illness.
- Opened its outpatient Spring Centre, enabling it to reach more people from diagnosis.
- Expanded and created new and innovative fundraising events to deliver a sustainable income from our Garden Party to our Bubble Rush.
- Transformed its seven-acre gardens from a brown field site into a tranquil, therapeutic environment for Hospice patients, their families, friends and visitors.
- Increased the number of different volunteer roles it has from 22 to over 50.
Steve Jamieson, Hospice CEO, commented, “It’s wonderful to be celebrating our tenth anniversary at Spring Garden Lane and to have grown and developed so much as an organisation.
“We’ve achieved a lot in 10 years across all our services, all with the help of our dedicated staff, volunteers and supporters, without whom we simply wouldn’t exist.
“We’ll be marking our milestone by planting 10 commemorative lilac trees in the garden and having a celebration tea for staff, volunteers and Association Members.
“Our future depends on innovation, collaboration and the continuing support of our community, but for now we’d like to reflect on, acknowledge and celebrate those who had the bold vision to make our new building a reality.”