Roger and his views > Canterbury Hospice
Gale’s View 19th May 2014 
 
There are few of us of “a certain age” who have not parted company with friends, relatives or family through the Pilgrims Hospice movement.
 
Some of my very dearest friends and many of my constituents have departed this life while in the care of Thanet or Canterbury (I am not so conversant with Ashford) and I understand only too forcefully the deep well of affection in which those who have lost loved ones, and particularly very close family members, while in the care of these wonderful institutions, hold our Hospices.  For some, I know, feelings are so raw that the proposal to re-structure the area`s establishments, and particularly the proposed closure of the present Canterbury Hospice, is akin to spraying graffiti on a headstone.
 
This will not make me popular but, having studied the proposals very carefully indeed and having met personally with the CEO, Steve Auty, to discuss his thoughts, I have to recognise that notwithstanding the strength of public opinion on this issue the Hospices have to change and to modernise their approach to terminal care if they are to meet the needs and demands not of yesterday but of tomorrow.
 
This is a highly delicate subject particularly for those who, like Suzy and myself, are closer to the end of our lives than to the beginning. I want the very best for those that I love and, selfishly, I would quite like it, when the time comes, for myself.  It is clear that while the care and attention and very genuine love dispensed by those working within the existing Hospices is superlative,  more and more people are choosing, where possible, to end their days in their own homes surrounded by their own families and animals and the seemingly trivial things that we all  hold dear.
 
That, inevitably, means that fewer in-patient beds are required and that more resources to provide home care and support have to be released. End-of-life care, like all healthcare, is about people, not about buildings.  The facilities at the Thanet Hospice, purpose-built and adjacent to the hospital, are second to none and I am told that the Ashford Hospice is not dissimilar. The Canterbury Hospice, an adapted if beautiful building, however, is in medical terms probably past its sell-by date as a piece of real estate.  That is not in any way to diminish or fail to recognise the quality and dedication of the nursing and medical facilities. It is a statement of fact relating solely to bricks and mortar and a need to deliver the best value for every donated, and hard fund-raised, and so generously-given, pound that can be achieved.
 
We need, I think, to recognise on the one hand the strength of feeling and emotion that embraces “The Canterbury experience” (and which for me relates very directly to at least two people of whom my wife and I have been inordinately fond) and on the other hand the requirement to provide an imaginative and creative response that allows people to die with dignity, love and compassion if not in their own homes then at the very least as close to those homes, and within reach of friends and family, as possible.
 
One thought, particularly in the light of a recent and highly critical report relating to terminal care, suggests that perhaps the “Hospice-within-a-hospital” model, offering the tranquillity of the former and the medical facilities of the latter, might provide a solution.  If, for example, through the good offices of the League of Friends and a very and characteristically generous public, it were possible to create a purpose-built hospice unit on the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital site, with staffing and revenue funding provided by the Hospice movement, with a similar facility located on the Kent and Canterbury Hospital site, might that not maintain the ethic and the traditions of the Pilgrims’` Hospices while offering better and more accessible accommodation closer to those who need to visit on a daily and sometimes nightly or hourly basis?
 
We owe it, I think, to those who are struggling with this dilemma, and who find themselves between a rock and a hard place, to treat the debate not only with emotion but with practicality and, on behalf of those in need who will benefit in the future, to welcome the fact that some have dared to go where angels fear to tread and to seek solutions to a highly sensitive but very real problem.


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