In the early days of Thorpe Hall Hospice, palliative care wasn’t the established medical discipline it is today.
The newly-recruited team of 24 Sue Ryder staff had to educate healthcare professionals across the region, the community they were to serve – and themselves.
Jo Hazell started working as a Thorpe Hall nurse a few months after doors opened. She is now the day services manager. She said: “People had much less understanding of what a hospice offered then. The staff who came here were passionate about palliative care but very few had worked in a hospice so we were finding our way.
“We introduced services as patients needed them and our ways of working developed around what was best for the patients we were looking after and their families.”
That’s how Thorpe Hall Hospice has developed into the community hub and centre of excellence with a reputation for incredible care that it is today.
Jane Petit is Thorpe Hall’s hospice director. She has overall responsibility for all of Thorpe Hall’s services, both in the building in Thorpe Road, Peterborough and in the community.
She said: “The community is our life-blood. We wouldn’t exist without the support of that community. We like to think the fact people continue to support us is because we’re doing a good job for them.”
That support is vital.
Every year it costs £2.7 million to run Thorpe Hall Hospice. Around half of that has to be funded by the charity – which means relying on the generosity of supporters.
“We are inspired every day by the things people do to support our services,” said Jane. “People climb mountains, run marathons, organise bake sales, get their firms involved, leave a gift in their will, donate to our shops and stage their own events.”
Thanks to two years of concentrated fundraising efforts, last year Thorpe Hall opened a new multi-million pound extension providing state-of-the-art facilities for patients.
Money raised funds the incredible care delivered to patients at Thorpe Hall, others in the community, and those close to them.
“As an idea, it costs £14 to pay for an hour of incredible care, or £100 to fund a hospice nurse for a day,” said Jane. “We want our care to be available to as many people as possible but we can only do that if we have the funds.”
In the last six months, the hospice has cared for more patients than ever before, thanks to the launch of Thorpe Hall Hospice at Home. Staff, both Thorpe Hall and Marie Curie registered nurses and nursing assistants, provide short term support to people being looked after at home who need another layer of help.
“We can step in when circumstances change,” said Jane. “Caring for people in the community gives them some continuity if they then come into the hospice for further support.”
Thorpe Hall is also fostering closer relationships with other organisations with whose services there is a natural synergy.
The Carers Trust and Headway Cambridgeshire now have offices at Thorpe Hall.
“These kind of partnerships can only benefit our patients and their clients,” said Jane. “Headway has opened a gym at Thorpe Hall which is available for our patients to use. And working together we have created a brand new kitchen garden at Thorpe Hall. This provides a place for patients and clients to spend time and will grow produce for us to use in our kitchens – and eventually sell at a farm shop on site.”
In the spirit of being a community service Thorpe Hall now offers bereavement support to adults who have had no previous connection to the hospice but who could benefit as they grieve for someone close. And a specialist bereavement group aimed at teenagers is to be added to the portfolio of services later this year.
“We are very proud of what we as a hospice can offer and we want as many people as possible to benefit from our expertise. We’ve been at the heart of the community for 25 years – and there’s still so much we want to do for that community.”