Cottage hospices set for East Sussex

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A hospice which treats people from across Kent and East Sussex is proposing to open a string of cottage hospices.

Hospice in the Weald, based at Pembury, hopes to open a 10-bedroom cottage hospice in East Sussex once a suitable site is found. At present the preferred location is Heathfield. It would be the first of several to give terminally ill patients access to expert specialist care near their homes.

Chief executive Rob Woolley said : “We are not trying to replace or duplicate the work of our existing hospice. That will always be there for people who need high-intensity medical care and nothing will change. But we want to build on the work of our Hospice in the Home service which currently looks after 500 patients. It’s a different model of care. The scheme is being considered in other regions and I have toured the UK, thinking it would be nice if someone somewhere had got there first, but they have not. So it will be us in Sussex. We feel death is over-medicalised and we want to put the community back into caring for loved ones. For example, we could have double rather than hospital beds so couples can spend their last days together and even support each other’s care. A recent DEMOS report called Dying for Change points out hospitals are not places to die.”

He explained 20 per cent of Weald hospice patients are from East Sussex and fears for the unintended consequences of health policy, citing a Surrey CCG £50-million contract to Virgin Health which does not provide hospice care. And he fears a replication of that in the county. “We already have 1400 new referrals every year and urgently need to try out new models of care to cope with the demographic time bomb in East Sussex. Cottage hospices will engage more with their community. We cover 400 square miles and we are looking at Heathfield for our first site because the 20% of our patients from East Sussex will find it easier to access. Also it does not have the planning constraints of the Forest or Crowborough.”

The new hospice would be a community hub with drop-in daycare facilities for patients as well as ground-breaking training courses to teach volunteers, families and carers skills to look after patients themselves. There would be residential suites for terminally ill patients where relatives or carers have the chance to stay with loved ones round the clock. Mr Woolley added: “We’d like to see several cottage hospices in our patch. We know there’s a need as surveys show one in three local people over 75 would prefer to die in a hospice but only three per cent can. Hospices can try to ensure that people can die where they choose.”

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