Tynedale Hospice at Home is 25 years old. We caught up with founders Ish Fawcett (pictured left) and Edith Russell to reflect on how far the hospice has come since the seed of the idea was sown over a cup of tea all those years ago.
It was a personal experience that brought them together.
Ish, a Marie Curie nurse at the time, was caring for Edith’s husband Kevin who was dying from cancer. From these parallel perspectives, they began to explore the possibility of a holistic Hospice service for the community of Tynedale.
Edith said: “This was a really difficult time for me and the children, but I was very fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and our local GP Practice which helped me through. But it struck me that not everyone is lucky enough to have that and it got me thinking – what happens to those people who are given terminal diagnosis who may live out in rural communities, but who don’t have friends or family to look out for them or just simply want to spend their final days in the comfort of their own home?”
Ish takes up the story: “In my time as a Marie Curie nurse, I saw many patients whose nursing and medical care was well provided for by the Primary Care Teams in the community. Every effort was made to enable patients to die at home if this was their choice. However, because of a lack of practical support, they often had to be admitted to hospital.
“When you are very poorly you can’t face doing the mundane things like doing the shopping, tending the garden, or even something simple as making a cup of tea. It was this kind of support that was lacking for many people. We wanted to do something about it.”
“Edith and I chatted about it often and it was during one of these conversations that the seeds of Tynedale Hospice at Home were sown.”
An advert in the Hexham Courant followed, announcing a public meeting to see if they could enlist the support of enough volunteers to get their hospice at home idea off the ground.
Edith continued: “The response to the advert was fantastic. The room was packed with people wanting to help and it was crystal clear that we had the backing of the local community.”
But it was receiving a letter in the post a few days later that changed everything.
“I opened the post and couldn’t believe my eyes,” she continued. “A cheque for £50,000 from a generous local woman who had been at the meeting said she had been looking for a good cause to support and that this was it.
“It was a sign – this was the start we needed and we didn’t look back.”
Things move quickly. Further funding through Northumberland Care Trust and the use of an office at Hexham Hospital was secured. A Development Officer was employed and Tynedale Community Hospice [as it was known then] was born. Edith and Ish also had the dedicated support of a management committee of professionals with a range of backgrounds to help develop and manage the hospice as it grew.
Ish added: “We were lucky to have brilliant back up support from our management committee – it definitely was a team effort!”
“The growth of the hospice gathered pace. As we provided more care so the donations kept growing. The support of the local community was, and still is, tremendous.”
In 2010 Tynedale Community Hospice changed its name to Tynedale Hospice at Home.
“We wanted to reflect the fact that we provided hospice care in the heart of the home, in the heart of the community. Some people were confused thinking that we had a hospice building in the community where people came to be nursed.”
Fast forward 25 years and hospice’s mission is as strong as ever – to ease the end of life journey for people in our community.
Providing support along the journey of someone’s life – from diagnosis to end of life is central to the hospice’s care but over the years it has expanded its support to offer pre and post bereavement support through our Family Support Service and a Hospital Transport Service to help people with life limiting illnesses get to important medical appointments – a lifeline for many people living in a rural community like Northumberland.
“We wanted people to feel like they were being wrapped in a blanket of support when they came into contact with Tynedale Hospice at Home,” Ish concludes.
This philosophy is as important today as it was then.
Thanks to Ish and Edith’s vision and passion, and the help of the local community and hospice volunteers, Tynedale Hospice at Home is able to continue to provide this much needed blanket of support.