When someone says the word ‘hospice’, many assume it’s a place that people go to just before they die.
For some, that’s true.
But 50 per cent of patients who visit Kettering’s Cransley Hospice inpatient unit, tucked away in the grounds of St Mary’s Hospital in London Road, return home.
With National Hospice Care Week taking place this week (October 9 to 15), staff nurse Kim Rowbotham says it’s a common myth that should be dispelled.
She said: “People’s perceptions of a hospice are that you went in there and died there but that is now so different.
“Half the people who come here return home and many come here just to help maintain a quality of life.
“It’s not just cancer patients we see either.
“We also help lots of people who have been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, heart failure, COPD and Parkinson’s.
“Then there’s the mental health and holistic care side of it.
“We like to think we’re here.”
The hospice site provides free-of-charge palliative care to people in the north of the county, with nine patients on-site at a time.
Kim, who has worked there for 13 years, says they will never be shut off from life outside the hospice and that they quite often bring the ‘outside’ in.
She said: “All aspects of life pass through our doors and it reflects what’s going on in the outside world.
“Patients still get to be part of that outside world and anything that they want to improve their quality of life, we will try our best to accommodate.
“We’ve held weddings, sometimes within a few days, and baptisms for families who have had a child but they might have a relative who is too ill to go to a service.
“People have had romantic French dinners and they have their dogs and cats visiting, which just wouldn’t happen at a hospital.”
But it’s not just services in the hospice itself which staff provide.
In 2016/17, nurses made more than 1,100 home visits to some 230 patients.
On a standard day Kim, 59, will sort out patients’ medications, make sure they are safe, do the rounds on the doctors’ ward, take phone calls and manage staff.
Her role isn’t just looking after patients, but she says that will always be the priority.
She said: “It has changed here, definitely, but some of it has stayed the same.
“There are so many more patients to staff now but what hasn’t changed is the care at the heart of it.
“We all know the pressures on the NHS and it’s not the fault of doctors or others, but they don’t have the time that we do.
“I don’t necessarily think the job we do is a sad job.
“People will come through the doors of the hospice and say it has a feel about it, there’s a warmth here.
“The patients will always be our number one priority.”
Chaplain Gerard O’Flaherty says they take in every piece of information they can about people to help them – including their favourite ice-cream flavour.
He said: “We meet the person, we remember their name and remember whether they like strawberry or vanilla ice-cream.
“That sort of information is important for us to know and remember to help them.
“Sometimes in other places like hospitals there isn’t the time to get to know people and find out whether they prefer strawberry ice-cream.
“We can do this and it is a privilege.”
While the nurses and doctors are at the heart of it, there are many whose services are equally as vital and those who volunteer their time.
The hospice is also kept running by occupational therapists, physiotherapists, chaplaincy staff, family support workers and housekeepers.
In 2018 Cransley Hospice will celebrate its 20th anniversary but it needs to raise £1.4m this year to continue funding its services.
It has held several recent successful charity events such as Sing For Cransley, the Cransley Hospice Road Race and bake sales.
Marketing manager Laura Holmes says the support of the community is vital to their role in helping others.
She said: “If we don’t get £1.4m that impacts on the services we can provide.
“We are really grateful for the support of the community and the volunteers who save us money by giving up their time, helping out with anything from collection boxes to driving.
“Any money we raise will help people but we are always looking for more.”
Fundraising events coming up this year include Strictly Kettering (October 14), the Tree of Lights Ceremony (December 3), a Christmas skydive (December 9) and the Santa Saunter (December 10).
To donate to Cransley Hospice or to find out more about their services, click here.