Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Snack At St Raphael's

St Raphael's Hospice is opening a new cafe on the premises called 'The Orangery'.

The new eatery has been designed as a friendly, independent area where family of patients, patients if they are well enough, carers and the public can sit, relax and have a snack. It means that families have somewhere else they can go as opposed to just all squeezing around the bed in their loved-one's room.

The glass doors all open out into the courtyard where they will be putting comfortable black wicker furniture so people can sit out in the sun in the summer, which should do both patients and relatives a world of good.

It also solves another problem in that it gives people somewhere to get something to eat without having to go across to St Anthony's or further afield. This can be more important that is may first seem. When my Grandfather spent his final days here back in 1999, I volunteered to go and get a bottle of wine to share with the rest of my family who were with him at his bedside (He was in a coma but would have heartily approved which is why I offered to do so.) However there was trepidation at the thought he might go while I was gone as I didn't know how long it would take to get back. As it happened he held on for several more days (and I was back shortly having just caught the St Anthony's cafe as they were closing) but the worry was there that there was nowhere reliably close by to get refreshments.

It is also open to the public and indeed the public are encouraged to pop in and enjoy a snack - just go in through the front door, carry straight on and right into and through the courtyard.

The hospice is always fighting for money and donations so one of my first questions was how did they afford it? The answer was that after they drew up the plans in 2012 they applied for and received a small grant from the NHS (in 2013) after which they started the renovations. The work was mostly completed by July last year (2014) but there were problems with muddy ground and they postponed the opening.

They actually opened the doors for staff last Friday (6th February) and to the public on Monday (9th), however they are planning to have their official opening on 26th March. They are rather short staffed at the moment and want to build up slowly and get some experience (and hopefully some more volunteer staff) before they open officially. That said, they were quite happy for me to write this piece about them and did make me a very nice cappuccino.

What does St. Raphael's do?

Being a hospice I had been under the impression that they basically offered palliative care for people in the final days. However I found out it is much more that just that. For people who have been referred to them they offer four main services: Symptom Control - to relive pain and other symptoms of causes for which there is no cure, Respite Care, to give the family (or the patient) a break from the difficulties of being looked after at home, Terminal Care - Giving people the best possible last days, and they are just beginning a new service called 'Hospice At Home' - where they try to offer as much of this service as possible to people in their own homes.

There are many activities put on in the new Jubilee Centre in the Hospice (opened by Sir John Major in November 2012). They have people come to do art, yoga, live music (with both a classical musician and a guitarist) and even knitting with those patients who want to join in the various activities. There are of course regular visits from numerous therapists and they also put on lunches for patients, carers and even for the recently bereaved.

As well as their own specialist nursing staff they help coordinate Macmillan and district nurses. In addition they run a 'Hospice Neighbours Service' where volunteers go out and spend time with these people in the community and their own homes. It might just be helping walk their dog or taking them to the library and chatting about their favourite authors - just the sort of little things that can make a big difference. Gill Nunn, who is thier volunteer coordinator said:
"We try to match up the volunteers to the people they go to see. If a patient is from Yorkshire we see if we have a volunteer from that area to visit them. If they are musical we try to find someone who shares that passion."

There are a total of around 150 paid staff at the Hospice and 150 volunteers giving a few hours a week. When you add the volunteers at the various St Raphael's charity shops, the community support groups and up to 200 people who offer a bit of time for special events, there are around 500 people each year who help St Raphael's out by giving them some of their time. They are always in need of more though.

All the patient care is given freely and all this costs around £5 million per year. The NHS provides about a quarter of that so the Hospice must raise nearly £4 million per year. So please, if you can either spare some time (perhaps a couple of hours each week in the new cafe), or some money (or by helping with an event to raise some money), please contact Gill Nunn on

Hopefully for each of us we'll never need it but if we do, I'm sure we'll be glad it's there. Please help make sure it still is for everyone who does.