Hospice Care Week

IT STARTED out in 1976 and, as it gears up for Hospice Care Week on Monday, Sobell House Hospice is getting ready to shout about the vital care it provides for the people of Oxfordshire.

The purpose of hospice care week is to raise awareness of the valuable services they provide, which fundraiser Lindsay Manifold said was crucial to changing “huge misconceptions”.

She said: “People don’t realise how much hospices have changed over the years. They often think we only look after cancer patients, but that is not true.

“In fact we now look after patients over a period of several years.”

Sobell specialises in care for patients where a cure is no longer possible and the aim is to relieve pain, and control symptoms.

It first opened its doors 37 years ago and is an adult hospice, taking patients aged 18 years and older.

It is made up of a 20-bed in-patient unit and a day centre at Headington’s Churchill Hospital, but many patients are also looked after in their homes by the Sobell Home Care team.

The hospice costs about £4m a year to run and the fundraising department needs to raise 40 per cent, about £1.4m with the rest coming from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The recent economic downtown has had an adverse impact on charitable fundraising, but Mrs Manifold said the hospice was in a healthy state.

She said: “Obviously the overall recession affected charitable fundraising as people don’t have as much to give. It would be great if there was more money for everyone, but we are still receiving lots of donations, so it has not been too significant.

“The fact that we are such a local organisation means there is a greater community effort and we are very fortunate that people have taken the trouble to organise their own fundraising events for us.

“We are currently about to launch a Christmas appeal, which will raise money for the refurbishment of the ward.

“We also recently had £310,846from the Department of Health which was given to a number of hospices to help upgrade their buildings.”

She said the hospice is able to manage demand for spaces and patients are referred by GPs or hospital doctors.

She said: “If we do not have an available bed immediately, then the patient will be taken care of by our team of community nurses at home, or in a nursing home, or if they are in hospital, by our team of hospital palliative care nurses.”

In a typical year, the hospice makes about 3,000 home visits, more than 400 in-patient admissions and 1,000 bereavement support visits.

She said: “We provide many treatments. Patients are given pain relief, blood transfusions, treatments for nausea and other symptoms to name just a few.

“All of these treatments are provided by the specialist doctors and nurses in Sobell House – whatever is needed is provided in-house for in-patients. We also have out-patient clinics for people who are still living at home.”

The hospice has 10 Oxford charity shops and runs a local lottery and various fundraising events.

s As part of Hospice Care Week, touring circus group Circus Starr will stage two free performances in South Park, East Oxford, next Friday at 4.45pm and 7pm.

Case study: ‘So much more than a place to die’

CAROLINE O’Connor, from Didcot, has first hand experience of what Sobell House is.

She said: “My husband George had pancreatic cancer and so he went into Sobell House in May 2011 and spent two weeks there.”

“The hospice really wasn’t what you expect. It isn’t just a place where you go to die. It is much more than that.

“When George went in he was in an awful lot of pain, but within 12 hours he was comfortable and relaxed for the first time in months.

“They treat you so differently to in a hospital and they really listen and it’s so much more personal.

“George did music therapy in the hospice and they created a CD which means we have been left with a piece of George.

“We had been through hell and back as a family but they really listened to us and we had a personal connection with them.

“George passed away aged 42 on June 6, 2011 holding my hand and his mum’s, which is what he had asked for.”