Twenty years ago this month, one of Kettering’s most important institutions was born.
Cransley Hospice opened in November 1998 on the ground floor of Sunley Court having been formed by Dr John Smith.
Until then Dr Smith had been caring for patients in the Cransley Ward at St Mary’s Hospital.
But the opening of the hospice changed things.
There was more space, better facilities and patients had more dignity.
Dr Smith, who is now a patron of the hospice, said it had a great impact on the town.
He said: “The hospice has given a heart to the community.
“By caring for the very sick and their families it is saying we are all valued, each one of us, we are loved.”
In 2005 Dr Smith retired but by then a hospice unit was well established with specialist palliative care consultants.
But none of it would have been possible without help of the public.
Dr Smith recognised that more money was needed and in 1999 Di Patrick was appointed as a fundraiser for the hospice.
Her target was £120,000 a year.
By the time she was made an MBE in 2014, the target was £800,000.
And the 2018 target is £1.4m through charitable donations - equivalent to £166 every hour - just to cover the 30 per cent of service funding not provided by the NHS.
The creation of the Cransley Hospice Trust in 2012, after years of dedicated fundraising by a small NHS team, has helped support the hospice’s services through a number of big events.
There’s the annual Bubble Rush race, Strictly Kettering, Cransley Hospice Road Race, Santa Saunter and more.
The trust also has a charity shop and coffee shop to boost their income, and a scratch choir formed after their 2014 ‘Sing for Cransley’ event has donated thousands.
Patient and family liaison worker Heather Cook thanked the public for their support.
She said: “Having been in the post for three-and-a-half years I recognise that we are indebted to the public for their ongoing support.
“This helps us to provide quality of care to our patients and those closest to them.”
When someone says ‘hospice’ many think of a place where people go to die, but that’s a myth Cransley Hospice are hoping to dispel.
More than half of the patients at the Kettering hospice are later discharged and the average stay is two weeks.
They also provide services such as the Hospice at Home service, with nurses making 1,108 home visits to 253 patients in 2017.
Without the charitable funding in 2017 they wouldn’t have been able to expand the Hospice at Home service - equating to 68 patients who would have been unable to have their preferred place of death.
There’s also the therapy team, which provided 2,015 sessions last year, and a bereavement service with plans to expand this in 2018-19.
The nine-bed in-patient unit cared for almost 200 people in 2017.
Staff at the hospice work tirelessly to make stays as comfortable as possible for patients.
There are non-restricted visiting hours, pets are welcomed and the hospice even has a drinks trolley for those in need of a gin and tonic.
Dr Smith recalled weddings taking place there and the hospice often holds events such as Wimbledon afternoon teas and visits from Santa’s reindeers.
Staff nurse Katie Shepherd said: “Cransley Hospice has been a wonderful place to start my nursing career.”
On a visit to the site this week it was easy to see why the hospice is so loved.
Staff were warm, friendly and inviting.
Cransley Hospice has come so far in 20 years. Here’s to at least another two decades.