Dr Janet Squire was our first consultant and medical director. Passionate about palliative care, Janet knew from her own experience about the life-long importance of care at the end of life.
In 1979 it was highly unusual for a doctor to be passionate about palliative care, to be meticulous in her attention to detail of exactly what was troubling the patient and family when someone is dying or knows their death is imminent and in bringing awareness to the importance of psychological and family care as well as excellence in symptom control. She was also aware of the importance of faith and spirituality even if you have no faith at all.
Janet told us that like many people it was at first what seemed like a casual conversation with Pam Macpherson that by the end of the first sentence made clear you had in fact received a directive that you would become involved in founding the hospice.
She described those early days as ‘inspiring’ and without Pam, the Hospice would never have come about and how it was so important to start by raising awareness and to combine that with raising money. Whilst many of the Originals shared a faith, Janet said that the founding of the Hospice was always the founding of a place for everyone of every faith and background.
Janet devised, launched and led our Snowball Coffee Campaign. She told us: “We were not short of ambition and when I look back at it now, even I am amazed. We printed 10,000 leaflets right away. We divided them up into bundles and set about recruiting volunteers who were to hold coffee mornings and give hand to hand each leaflet to their coffee morning guests.
“We need 109,000 people to give a cup of coffee and invite a contribution of 25p for doing so. Please offer by letting the office know your name address and telephone number now. We can raise over £25,000 in 12 weeks in this simple way,” read the article in the Hospice Newsletter.
“We charged 25p for coffee and we were unashamed in promoting what a Hospice was, why we needed a Hospice and what each person could do to make this happen. I suppose it was akin to pyramid selling but of course for a very worthy cause!” Janet recalls.
Those coffee mornings were soon taking place in Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans and many of the surrounding villages. It was a campaign that would raise £25,000.
We asked Janet at what point she felt she knew that the campaign was working. “It was when people would start to cross the road when they saw us coming,” she said with a wry smile.
Janet remembers the people – patients and families she cared for in those early days. She speaks movingly about the importance of being alongside people and the importance of supervision, training and space to ensure staff are always at their best.
She talked too about the importance of green space, surrounding gardens, a sense of homeliness, compassion, humour and skill – a feeling that people can immediately trust the place, the staff and volunteers and that the Hospice is as much a place to overcome loneliness and fear as it is to celebrate family life.
She said that the ‘fire in the belly’ that Pam constantly referred to in doing something to really make a difference is something that she always comes back to.
Having established and helped run the Hospice which had been all consuming, Janet went on to a distinguished career in Hospice care as a consultant and medical director at Thorpe Hall in Peterborough one of the Sue Ryder Hospices.
Forty years on, even having retired from her role as medical director at Thorpe Hall, she continues to teach doctors of the future. Dr Squire is not just an Original, she is one of the many unsung hero’s of palliative care in England.
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