It’s Hospice Care Week – and you can learn about Dacorum’s two hospices here...

Hospice Care Week
Hospice Care Week

It’s Hospice Care Week – and Dacorum’s two hospices have joined forces more than 100 other hospices across the UK to raise public awareness of the service.

The theme of the week is ‘Hospice care, everywhere’ which aims to highlight that it is available in many different settings beyond hospice buildings.

Hospice Care Week PNL-140710-125155001

Hospice Care Week PNL-140710-125155001

What follows is some information on Rennie Grove Hospice Care and The Hospice of St Francis:


Rennie Grove Hospice Care will be joining forces with more than 100 other hospices across the UK to help raise public awareness about the diversity of hospice care during Hospice Care Week from 6 – 12 October. The theme of the week is ‘Hospice care, everywhere’ which aims to highlight that it is available in many different settings beyond hospice buildings.

It may surprise many to learn that most hospice care in the UK is now delivered outside of hospice buildings, the majority of it in patients’ homes. Rennie Grove and its founding charities Iain Rennie Hospice at Home and Grove House have been pioneers in the development of delivering hospice care in the home and other community settings for nearly thirty years and last year the organisation cared for over 3,000 patients and families in Herts and Bucks.

Iain Rennie Hospice at Home was one of the first organisations to provide end-of-life care for patients in their own homes. What started as a group of five nurses teaming up to care for one man, Iain Rennie, who wished to stay at home with his family has now expanded to six teams of specialist palliative care nurses delivering hospice at home care on unique 24/7 responsive basis.

At Grove House, day hospice care combines with other services ranging from physiotherapy, occupational therapy and complementary therapy to medical and nurse clinics, exercise classes and social support groups to offer patients symptom management and control to allow them to continue to live their lives as fully as possible at home with their families.

Rennie Grove Director of Nursing and Clinical Services Sue Varvel explains:

“At Rennie Grove we don’t have a building with beds for our patients so our services are all delivered either in patients’ homes or at Grove House in St Albans. We assess our patients’ needs individually and work with them to develop a programme of care that gives them choice in how and where they receive their care. The vast majority of patients would prefer to be at home with their families towards the end of life and our range of services makes this possible. In 2013-14 94% of our patients were able to die in their preferred place of care, a high percentage of which we are very proud.”

Crystal Oldman, Chief Executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute which focuses on patient care in the community and particularly on nursing in the home, recently had experience of Rennie Grove’s services when her Aunt was diagnosed with cancer and was referred to Iain Rennie Hospice at Home. She said:

“I am full of praise for the service provided by Rennie Grove. The nurses who helped us that day were so skilled and so reassuring and supportive of the whole family, particularly my son who had never seen anyone so ill before.

“I can honestly say that the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home service is brilliant. As a community nurse and the Chief Executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, which focuses on nursing in the home, I know what good looks like.

“I am very grateful that we were able to keep Helen comfortable at home during her last hours rather than her have suffer the inevitable distress of a hospital admission. We all knew she was approaching the end of her life and I am so pleased that her final passing was in the peace of our home, just as she wanted, rather than an A&E department or a busy hospital ward.”

With the number of people aged 85 and over in the UK expected to double in the next 20 years, and with more people living for longer with chronic and often complex health conditions, demand for hospice care will carry on growing. The challenge for the future is to continue to provide top quality services for an increasing number of patients and families while still offering a choice about where they receive their care.

Everyone is invited to follow the debate about “Hospice Care, everywhere” on Facebook and Twitter using #HospiceCareWeek and to help illustrate the diversity of hospice care by sharing their own experiences. For further information on the services provided by Rennie Grove Hospice Care and to find out how you can help us support local patients and families, please go to


Twitter: @renniegrove


Whilst the Hospice of St Francis is well known for the care it provides in its 14 beds, it is also very active beyond its own walls, not only caring for people with serious illness in their own homes, but also supporting carers and influencing end of life care in hospitals, care homes and nursing homes.

How does the Hospice help outside its walls?

Supporting patients in the community

The Hospice has a specialist nursing and physiotherapy team who go out and visit individuals with a serious illness living locally, making a staggering 4,259 home visits last year. The team is there to chat through a patient’s condition, offer advice on symptom control and give detailed practical assessments of a patient’s home environment to ensure physical well-being, alongside emotional support.

Yvonne Roberts from Berkhamsted receives visits from Community Nurse Liz Duro on a regular basis. She says, “Liz helps me with my illness and I look forward to her visits immensely. She’s become like a friend to me, offering total reassurance, cheering me up and making me feel positive about life.”

In addition, the Hospice hosts many groups in community settings, such as cafés, to help those who are in remission from an illness like cancer to move on from its rehabilitation services back to everyday life.

Supporting Carers

The Hospice of St Francis has over 1,000 volunteers, some of whom support carers in their own homes. Caring for someone with a serious illness can be demanding and tiring and the Hospice team works with carers and patients to offer practical and emotional support. This often involves matching a volunteer to a patient, who then visits regularly, perhaps sitting with them, chatting to them over a cup of tea or maybe reading to them – whatever the patient would enjoy. This time allows the carer to have a break by going out for a walk, enjoy a hobby or meet up with friends.

Lesly Partridge has been visiting Mary Knight and her husband Alan at their Hunton Bridge home for nine months, reading poetry to former primary school teacher Mary, 80, who has Parkinson’s Disease, and giving Mary’s husband, Alan, her full-time carer, an hour of vital ‘me-time’ to enjoy a walk.

“Lesly’s visits are something I look forward to every week,” says former deputy head, Alan, 79.

“When she comes, I know I can walk out of the door and know that Mary is safe. I can just think my own thoughts and do my own thing. I’ve walked the same walk every Monday, along the canal and down our 1,000-year-old lane. It takes me an hour, I’ve seen all the seasons come and go and it helps me keep fit. It doesn’t sound very much, but it really means a lot.”

Says Lesly, a mum-of-two, from Berkhamsted: “When I was asked to do this, I was told how much Mary loved poetry and asked if I’d be happy to read to her. It was quite a challenge as I hadn’t read poetry since my schooldays. My first job was to visit the library and do some revision!

“But every visit I make has been very happy and rewarding. Mary has a lovely sense of humour and she helps me along the way – especially when I’m reading poems by the more serious poets like Dylan Thomas.

“We have a lot of fun and laughter together and Alan’s devotion to Mary and care is a joy to witness. They’ve made me feel so welcome in their lives and it really is a privilege to visit them every week.”

Working with Hospitals and Care Homes

The Hospice is also working with Watford General Hospital to transform ward culture and practice. A Hospice Project Educator is using education and mentorship to help nursing staff become more confident in communicating with patients who may be close to the end of life, giving them the tools to instigate important discussions with the patient and those close to them.

Similarly, the Hospice education team is working with many local care homes to continue its award winning ABC programme. The project works directly with care homes to train staff in how to communicate with, and assist, residents who may be approaching the end of life.

Sally Kalaiarasu, Manager of Orchard House Care Home in St Albans, said, “The ABC End of Life Care training that The Hospice of St Francis has delivered has made a huge difference to all the staff here. It’s enabled them to have the confidence to sit down with residents and their families and hold open conversations about their future care and end of life care wishes.”

Do something completely different in Hospice Care Week – Death Café!

For something completely different during Hospice Care Week, representatives from The Hospice of St Francis including Director Dr Ros Taylor MBE, DL (@HospiceDoctor) and Director of Supportive Care, Kimberley McLaughlin will be hosting a Death Café on Monday 6 October from 4:30-7:30pm at Kings Langley coffee shop Dalling & Co on the high street. The Death Café movement is all about encouraging people to discuss any subject they like related to death and dying over a cup of tea and slice of cake! The event is free to attend, and refreshments will be on sale.

Help care continue at your local Hospice!

The Hospice of St Francis relies on the people of West Herts and Bucks to help it raise the £4.7 million it needs annually to fund its vital care inside, and outside, the Hospice walls – only 20% of this figure comes from the NHS. Local people can help either through visiting one of the charity’s Love to Give shops to buy or donate goods or through fundraising, whether it’s by holding a cake sale, filling a home box or taking part in a Hospice organised event.

Find out more at:

Twitter: #hospicecareweek