Saturday, 13 August 2022

Cancer patients upset at sale of Sue Ryder hospice

Sue Ryder to sell hospice

CANCER patients who attend day care at Sue Ryder’s Nettlebed hospice are upset at plans to close it.

The charity has said it will sell Joyce Grove in order to expand and care for more people in South Oxfordshire at home.

The new arrangements will start next month and will then be rolled out before a move to a new community hub and the sale of the listed building and 27 acres of grounds.

The plans were revealed to staff last month but many patients only found out after they were exclusively revealed by the Henley Standard.

People who attend the day clinics at Joyce Grove for specialist advice and therapies are among the most concerned. Many have made plans to die at the hospice and are concerned that these will be disrupted by the move.

Lynne Carter, from Turville Heath, has been attending group therapy sessions every Tuesday for about three years on the recommendation of her GP after being diagnosed with terminal peritoneal cancer in January 2014.

She and her fellow patients spend time with specialist nurses, counsellors and physiotherapists and take part in alternative therapies and group activities including art, yoga and Pilates.

Mrs Carter, 69, said: “Community patients go in, use the facilities and that is where they thought they would go to pass away.

“We have a gathering of ladies and men with various forms of cancer and it’s a place where we can be honest.

“When my GP suggested I should go, I was horrified and did not think I was ready for the hospice but I went along to see what it was like.

“It was not what I expected at all. We have coffee and cake, we are offered holistic therapy and we have chats with doctors and specialist nurses. If we have any worries they help us.

“It’s a lovely place to be and you make so many friends who are like-minded. You can’t always talk about these things with your nearest and dearest.

“The specialist nurses at Sue Ryder are amazing. Each week they ask me how I am and if I am having any problems. Their work makes you feel safe.

“If you have a particular problem, they call the GP and arrange for your drugs to be at the hospice. It all comes down to Joyce Grove and it would be a pity to lose such a wonderful place.

“A lot of people are very disappointed. I understand it’s difficult to run the hospice because it’s so expensive but there are so many people who use it.

“It’s the building, it’s not just the name. I’m sure they would find another building but it would not be Sue Ryder with acres of grounds which are so peaceful. For people who have lost members of their families, it is where they want to go to remember those who they have lost.

“They have so many volunteers and often it’s people who want to thank the charity for the wonderful work they have done.”

Mrs Carter has made plans to go into the hospice for her final days and is concerned what will happen now.

“They are talking about care in the community but I don’t want that, I want to go there when my time comes,” she said. “I have got terminal cancer and it was all set in my mind with what was going to happen. I don’t want to be at home because my family will find it difficult.

“It had all been sorted and now it has been taken away and I don’t know what is going to happen. I have lost friends who stayed in the beds at the hospice. They were all content and ready.”

Mrs Carter added: “If they could just say the decision is based on costs to run the place then it would be good to know what they need to stay open and how much we were talking about.

“They have dozens and dozens of fund-raisers who can pull together and say they don’t want to lose Joyce Grove. If they need extra money to make it viable then I’m sure people would respond.”

Paula Humm, who also attends the Tuesday clinics, says the people who attend have been in touch with each other expressing their concerns.

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard, she says: “There has been no mention of continued services like the Tuesday group, which personally has been my rock of support both from the staff and meeting other people in similar situations.

“Although I acknowledge that the property upkeep is expensive, it is the atmosphere and the staff and facilities, as well as the building and grounds, that make it special.

“Joyce Grove is also a community asset in terms of events, the woodland walks, fireworks and facilities like the donation station and sales as well as access to beautiful grounds.”

Mrs Humm, of Rowan Close, Sonning Common, said most people she had spoken to felt that they were losing the support they needed and did not want home visits.

She said: “We want access to medical advice but also the ability to meet other people in similar situations to prevent feelings of isolation and form supportive friendships in a positive and supportive atmosphere.

“We also want future access to local hospice facilities with familiar staff and facilities in order to be confident of our final care needs.

“I feel that when plans for the future are discussed, the views of current hospice staff and service users should be of great importance, not just the financial implications.”

Sue Ryder’s “hospice at home” service will begin in April and will incorporate the existing specialist nurses to provide planned and rapid response care to patients in the community 24 hours a day.

A Sue Ryder team will also help deliver a single point of access care service for end-of-life patients in conjunction with the 111 urgent care service.

These services will be run from the hospice as a pilot scheme and the charity will be seeking to move the 12 in-patient beds to other locations and then sell the building.

In 2014 the hospice was due to move into a purpose-built, 12-bed facility at the new Townlands Memorial Hospital but the charity pulled out before construction had begun, saying it would have needed another property for its other services and outpatients.

A Sue Ryder spokesman said: “We know that change can be daunting but we want to reassure everyone that while we develop our plans we will continue to deliver the same well-regarded and respected services from this building.

“We want to make sure that more people across the region can access our care so we will look to sell the Nettlebed building over the next 18 to 24 months and provide inpatient beds and day services in alternative locations as well as expanding our community services. We will not be stopping our services.”

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