Few areas have seen such rapid progress as that of medicine. As a result, 'Caring for the living' could almost be the new catchphrase for St. Luke's Hospice in Winsford.
The chances are that if you were asked what services your local hospice provides, you would probably, like I used to, think of it as a place where terminally ill people go for comfort and pain relief during their last days. In fact, whilst in its early years that image would have been true, happily, it is now only one part of the whole story.
During the twenty four years since St. Luke's was founded, there have been many advances in the treatment of cancer and other life threatening illnesses that mean that more patients are either in remission or are recovering from serious illness, rather than just facing the grim alternative of the past. This fact has not been lost on the hospice movement and St. Luke's has adapted and extended its strategy to reflect the growing need for services to help and assist patients who have suffered the trauma of a life threatening illness.
Such an experience has an enormous impact upon the lives of the individuals concerned, who find that they need the help and support of well trained, competent people to assist them in rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the illness. Within the confines of budgetary restrictions, the NHS does its best to provide assistance, but far more needs to be done.
To address this need the hospice has developed an extensive range of services that cater for patients who are in remission or are rebuilding their strength and confidence as they move towards full recovery. These services are in addition to its traditional role and are in greater demand than ever as advances in medicine and treatment progress. To this end St Luke's has recently opened three Lymphoedema (a painful side effect experienced by some cancer sufferers) clinics in Crewe, Nantwich and Alsager, to provide a local service where it is needed.
In addition, its complementary therapy service, offered on an out-patient basis as well as for residents, is so well regarded that it is becoming overstretched. Happily this indicates that the service is filling an important role that was identified by the expertise of St. Luke's staff.
I was recently privileged to attend a day course during which a volunteer art tutor displayed some of the work of patients, who had for the first time in their lives, acquired the skill of painting during their treatment and recovery at the hospice. One patient had said that it was the only worthwhile thing that she had achieved in her life. Whilst this is probably a gross exaggeration, you can begin to see the benefits of such therapy, in raising patients self esteem at a time when disease has brought it to an all time low.
Respite care is another service provided for long term seriously ill patients, where their family are in need of a break from the daily strain of patient care at home. In fact many families will testify to the help, advice and assistance that they, as carers, have received from St Luke's staff. The aim is to care for the whole family, not just the patient, as all suffer from the illness of a loved one.
In addition, St. Luke's has for a number of years now, provided an essential educational facility, specifically designed to improve and develop specialist skills in relief of pain and anxiety, known as 'palliative' care. For those of you who can remember twenty years or so back, Leighton Hospital, in line with most NHS hospitals of the time, had no palliative care facility and no specialisations in pain relief.
Cheshire Hospice Education (CHE) based at St Luke's, has been instrumental in spreading the word and trying to uplift standards of palliative care across the community of health care providers and, as a result, has achieved an enviable reputation. An average of almost one thousand people a year, complete courses at CHE extending their knowledge and expertise in therapy, pain control and caring skills which are taken out into the homes, surgeries and hospital wards of Cheshire.
Today, your hospice is looking to the future, to provide a wider range of essential services, increasingly on an outreach basis within the community it serves, and to provide them regardless of disease, creed, race or sex. It costs in the region of £4,700.00 per day to keep St Luke's open, of which almost half comes from the Primary Care Trust. The rest we must raise annually, so thank you for your continuing support. The Hospice movement cares.
Peter Morgan : Audlem Support Group Chairman
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