The Sue Ryder hospice at Thorpe Hall provides unique and invaluable care. But they think they can do even better – and you can help
Thorpe Hall’s tree-lined avenue, dramatic eagle-topped gates and imposing façade are much as they would have been when it was home to the St John family – favourites of Oliver Cromwell – in the 1650s. Of course in the mid 17th century, hospice care as we know it was unheard of. It was another three centuries before visionary Dame Cicely Saunders pioneered the hospice movement, explained in her quote: ‘You matter because you are you and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully but also to live until you die.’ That holistic care, for patients and their families, is what is delivered within the centuries-old stately home in Longthorpe, Peterborough.
But while marble hallways, sweeping staircases and huge fireplaces are perfect for lords and ladies, Thorpe Hall nurses and doctors would prefer something more practical. Susan Shackleton is senior sister at the Sue Ryder hospice. She said: ‘People visit and get caught up in Thorpe Hall’s history and unique architecture. We agree – it is a beautiful building. But working here every day we look beyond the carved staircases and stained glass windows and see its impracticalities. ‘The wards are on the first and second floors. Rooms have huge windows but if you’re confined to bed, as many patients are, you see only sky and trees. Floors are uneven, doorways aren’t wide enough and the sweeping staircases lose their attraction when you’ve run up and down them a dozen times in a shift!’
‘Every patient and their family deserves dignity and privacy at the end of their life’
Thorpe Hall has 20 beds split between eight bedrooms with shared bathroom facilities. ‘You wouldn’t want to share a hotel room with strangers and we don’t want anyone to spend such precious time in less than perfect surroundings,’ said Susan. ‘Every patient and their family deserves dignity and privacy at the end of their life. We all know a flimsy curtain doesn’t provide that. And for other patients sharing that room, it can be distressing to witness someone else’s final days or hours.’
The care at Thorpe Hall is delivered despite the constraints of the building – but staff are now looking forward to a new era. September sees the start of building work on a new in-patient… [cont]