How the new Thorpe Hall Hospice is changing lives, a year after it opened

The Duchess of Gloucester at the official opening of Thorpe Hall Hospice EMN-160407-160527001
The Duchess of Gloucester at the official opening of Thorpe Hall Hospice EMN-160407-160527001
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Yesterday (Friday, July 8) marked a year since the first patients were welcomed into Thorpe Hall Hospice’s inpatient unit – a new, state-of-the-art building which promised to put Sue Ryder at the forefront of palliative care in the region.

Designed with input from Thorpe Hall’s nursing and medical teams, the building boasts 20 private rooms all with en-suites and direct access into the gardens. This replaced the shared bedrooms and bathrooms on the first and second storeys of Thorpe Hall mansion house with their uneven flooring, Victorian plumbing, hard to heat communal areas, difficult to access rooms and endless staircases.

Hospice director Jane Petit said: “There are very real differences our new building has brought for all of us.

“The individual rooms have given our patients privacy we struggled to provide previously. We have noticed visitors are staying for longer as they no longer worry about disturbing other patients sharing the room. That means families and friends are enjoying more time together.

“Garden access from all rooms was one of the key things we asked the architects for when they were designing the building. Within hours of moving in, patients were sitting outside in wheelchairs and even in their beds enjoying the new gardens. And our children’s play space allowing patients to interact with their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews means new memories are being made all the time.”

Here staff share a diary of how the hospice is changing people’s lives for the better.

July 8, 2015: Breakfast is served for the final time on the first and second floor of the mansion house, before the mammoth task of moving the 12 patients being cared for into the new building begins. Thanks to months of careful planning and with the help of the entire Thorpe Hall team, ambulance staff and visitors, by lunchtime all the patients are settled into their rooms and staff raise a glass to mark the occasion.

August 2015: Thanks to the patio doors in each of the rooms, patients enjoy the summer weather whenever they wish. Even those unable to get out of bed are wheeled into the new courtyard gardens, designed to provide a multi-sensory experience with bubbling water features, scented plants and whispering grasses.

September 8, 2015: Patron of the Thorpe Hall Capital Appeal, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester officially opens the new hospice building in front of invited guests. Unveiling the ceremonial plaque, the Duchess says: “Many a dream has come true thanks to the enormously hard work of the fundraising committee and incredibly generous donations from trusts, foundations, groups and individuals.”

September 2015: This month also sees the unveiling of Thorpe Hall’s new kitchen garden, a joint initiative between Thorpe Hall Hospice and Headway Cambridgeshire. Volunteers from British Sugar and Produce World plough in hundreds of hours of effort to transform the acre of abandoned ground into a fully-fledged kitchen garden producing fruit, salad and vegetables for use in the hospice kitchens.

October 2015: Thorpe Hall Hospice at Home launches offering short-term care and support for people in their own homes. The move extends the reach of Thorpe Hall into the community and enables the hospice to offer continuity of care for people who go on to require inpatient care or for those who have spent time at Thorpe Hall but opted to be cared for at home.

November 2015: With patients now being cared for in the modern, purpose-built inpatient unit space in the mansion house is freed up. Headway Cambridgeshire is already renting office space and they are joined as tenants by the Carers Trust. The relocation of the charities to Thorpe Hall opens up the opportunity for new joint initiatives to benefit patients.

December 2015: Incredible care doesn’t stop at Christmas. Thorpe Hall staff, patients, volunteers and visitors mark the first Christmas in the new inpatient unit with carols from the Salvation Army, the cathedral choir, bell ringers and a traditional Christmas dinner.

January 2016: Thorpe Hall’s bereavement support groups are relaunched. The Bereavement Support Group now invites in people who have been bereaved within the last six months, including those with no previous connection to Thorpe Hall. After that members are invited to join the Friendship Group which offers ongoing support. Staff also celebrated the first patient wedding in the new building.

February 2016: The new gym, opened in Thorpe Hall’s West Wing by Headway Cambridgeshire, is proving popular with Headway’s clients and Thorpe Hall’s patients. The gym is opened by Olympic silver medallist, badminton player Gail Emms.

March 2016: Delivering care in the mansion house was difficult – shared rooms often meant having to close beds, access issues meant some patients couldn’t be admitted and shared bathroom facilities compromised privacy. The new inpatient building with private rooms, en suite bathrooms and level access removed these issues. As a result occupancy rates have increased dramatically in the past nine months – and in March hit 84 per cent.

April 2016: Visitors are invited into the mansion house to mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of Thorpe Hall Hospice. Since April 1991 thousands of people from the region have been touched by the care at Thorpe Hall.

May 2016: The children’s play area, supported by the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, is installed in the new courtyard gardens, with planting designed by award-winning Stamford gardener Adam Frost. Volunteers from BGL provided plants and equipment to add the finishing touches. Occupancy hit a new record high for the month – 91 per cent.

June 2016: With a new lead complementary therapist in place and a new team of voluntary therapists recruited, the hospice’s complementary therapy room is opened.