Back

Severn Hospice - An Inspiration

As a partner at Lanyon Bowdler, I recently visited the Severn Hospice to present them with some funds the firm had raised as part of our objective to assist local charities. The fundraising manager, Elodie Home, gave us a warm welcome and kindly provided a tour of the Hospice.

This visit changed my whole perception about hospices.

IMG_20151015_154648.jpg

My work involves acting for patients who have been injured as a result of clinical negligence, and I would not hesitate now to recommend hospice care to my client’s, my family and friends.

3,500 daytime attendances each year

The Hospice provides specialist care and support, free of charge, to families across Shropshire and North Powys, who are living with an incurable illness. Severn Hospice employs 165 nurses, and four out of five of their patients are cared for by the nurses at home. There are over 3,500 daytime hospice attendances per year, and the average patient stay is 12 days. My earlier perception was that patients go to hospices to die, when they cannot be cared for at home.

The Hospice itself is attractive both inside and out without any of the clinical appearance, atmosphere, scents or pace of a hospital. Instead, the atmosphere is bright, comfortable and tranquil. The Hospice is surrounded by well stocked gardens with beautiful flowers and trees, even in mid autumn. There was no ‘municipal’ feel about the planting and I recognised some quite unusual perennial flowers. I was tempted to take a sneaky cutting but could imagine the headlines ‘Local Solicitor stealing plants from Hospice’ and thought better of it.

IMG_20151015_163026.jpg

I discovered that the gardens are tended by an army of volunteers throughout the year, who are clearly talented gardeners as they have planted to ensure the garden gives pleasure throughout the seasons. I noted patients sitting in the gardens with their children playing around them, and I was informed that on sunny days, some of the patients are wheeled out in their beds to enjoy the warmth of the sunlight surrounded by nature.

Art displayed

Inside, I noticed many windows so the light and the gardens can be seen from within at most locations. There are stimulating pieces of art displayed. Most of them were clearly not just for decoration but drew the observer in encouraging contemplation.

IMG_20151015_160646.jpg

Elodie demonstrated enthusiasm and knowledge about the mission of the Hospice and what was required to maintain. She introduced us to Paul Cronin, the Chief Executive and many of the clinical nurse specialists. Their empathy and dedication towards their patients was so impressive, and they all expressed their appreciation for our relatively small contribution, bearing in mind that the Hospice requires over £9 million a year to run. I understand the NHS provides a quarter of their funding, and the balance must be raised by other means.

A sanctuary for all 

During my tour I also met the chaplain, Harry Edwards, who demonstrated such insight and compassion when he talked about offering comfort and solace to the patients and their families. He showed us the Sanctuary for prayer or contemplation, and which could also be used for services. It was full of light and was furnished simply but thoughtfully so that all patients would be welcome, whether they are secular or a member of a religion. My eyes were drawn to a beautiful sculpture which moved me because it so perfectly reflected the ethos of what the Hospice was trying to achieve for its patients.

Easy and private communication with your family will naturally be a priority for patients with an incurable illness, and I noticed many rooms and areas available to patients for this purpose, some of them equipped with popular toys for patients to interact with their young children or grandchildren. There were also swings in the garden and apparently homemade cakes and biscuits are provided every day for patients and their families to add to a welcoming atmosphere akin to a “home”.

A variety of activities

One aspect of the Hospice which impressed me the most, was that there was a clear appreciation by the staff that their patients were people who would all respond differently to what the hospice could provide for them, either functionally or emotionally. This was most reflected in the inspiring attitude of Merina Dawson who is a volunteer creative therapist. She showed us a number of arts and crafts she did with some of the patients, but she had a complete understanding of other patients who had no interest, or indeed ability, in taking part in these sorts of activities, and that the volunteers would then try and engage with them in something else. She informed us that regular quizzes were popular, which I can personally understand. Even just observing a quiz is fun and can bring out one’s competitive nature, providing an immediate lively distraction for a short while. Elodie, Harry and Merina all pointed out how important volunteers were and I can imagine how incredibly rewarding it must be to contribute one’s time at such a place.

The Severn Hospice has an impressive website and I note that they say “Our vision is a world where people are cared for at the end of their life as well as they were at the beginning”. That is a tall order but after my visit, I was left in no doubt at all that every effort has been made in the development, management and day-to-day care that is provided.

Inspired

I left the Hospice feeling personally inspired to do everything I personally could to support the charity. I was moved to write this blog, just to communicate how my visit to the Hospice changed my entire perception and to encourage people who are sadly diagnosed with an incurable illness not to feel frightened about the word “Hospice”, because it can offer you and your family so much. To those who are fortunate not to have an incurable illness, you could not donate your time or money to a more worthwhile cause.