Reaching out to spead the word

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We all die. There I’ve said it, although you’d be surprised by the number of people who just don’t think it will happen to them.

As a society we don’t want to think about our death or those of our loved ones, yet it is inevitable.

It shouldn’t be this way and my hope for the hospice movement is that it can be a beacon for encouraging more openness about the end of life, stimulating conversations about people’s future care but ultimately celebrating the life of the individual.

If you’ve ever been to St Francis, you’ll know it’s a happy place. People who cross the threshold are often curious or scared about what they might find but those who come as a visitor, a patient or a friend leave with a positive impression. However, not enough do come!

Over the next few years we want to fling open our doors. We are working on developing a community hub, the Spring Centre, which will not only offer services such as outpatient clinics for specific medical conditions and complementary therapy and pain workshops but also act as a focal point for carers and volunteers and even social groups to meet.

We already hold a regular film night open to all and a choir is planned, launching next month.

Eventually we intend to run a full activity programme to appeal to all ages and interests. Approach us, suggest ideas, we’re listening!

We want to continue to provide the compassionate, special quality care for which we are renowned but to also introduce holistic, personal care at a greater scale than we do at present.

Consequently we hope to meet patients earlier in their illnesses, support them in a variety of ways and ultimately aim to keep them out of hospital – although we can’t offer a miracle cure for our inevitable mortality!

The opening of the Spring Centre and our two new beds this month will enable us to double the numbers of people we support over the next few years, from 1,000 to 2,000. This will benefit the whole community and ensure that we are well placed to cater for the predicted rise in people living longer with life-limiting illnesses in the future.

The thorn in our side is that all this costs. Only 20 per cent of funding for our hospice comes from the NHS and, as a charity, we have to raise the remaining amount.

While we have been lucky recently with some unexpected legacies, next year we still need £4.6 million to keep going.

So, please think about us, visit us, and support us if you can. A few coins in a home box each week, participating in a fundraising event such as our Midnight Walk in June, buying from our shops, remembering us in your will or becoming a volunteer will all help and enable you to share in the journey with us – ultimately helping to make dying less scary and more accepted across our society.

Dr Ros Taylor is the director of the Hospice of St Francis. 
Find out more about the hospice at www.stfrancis.org.uk