Turn off the A38 and head towards Mansfield and you can’t miss the multi-million development at King’s Mill Hospital. Far less obvious is the building in the foreground that offers it’s patient a service that is equally valued, if not more so, than its ‘big brother.’
It is home to the John Eastwood Hospice, which cares for those with terminal cancer and other illnesses, and first open its doors in December 1991.
Since then, professional staff and volunteers have combined to provide a highly-respected service that provides physical and emotional support for in and out-patients, as well as their families.
The hospice operates thanks to a successful union. County Health Partnerships, part of Nottinghamshire Healthcare provide the clinical services, while charity arm the John Eastwood Hospice Trust manages the building itself and meets all capital costs.
The growing esteem in which it is held in the community is reflected by the fact that barely an issue of the Chad goes by without an individual or group raising money - from car washes to sponsored bike rides - for the hospice.
Even so, there is plenty of work still to do to raise its profile among those of the public who haven’t been affected by the loss of a friend or a loved one.
There’s also the small matter of the need to raise around £400,000 each year to ensure the Hospice Trust meets its obligations, meaning the quest to promote its good work is an ongoing concern.
“Our profile has risen considerably as more and more people have become involved in our services and more people have stepped forward to help us,” Diane Humphreys, Hospice Trust manager.
“As a result, we have also built and refurbished two extensions and completed the in-patient unit and conservatory - and it’s our mission to keep those as good as we can.
“But we still have to work hard at raising funds and we’re very thankful for the donations and sponsorship activities that people do. It’s not just about us getting pictures in the paper, it’s about getting people to remember we are still here.”
People can be referred to the John Eastwood Hospice through their GP, by a district nurse, through Macmillan services or by hospital.
While the first concern is obviously the patients themselves, but staff and volunteers also work hard to ensure relatives are given adequate support during what can be a difficult and emotional time.
Diane added: “The welcoming environment we have established here is an important part of our provision of care. It’s not just about pain management and it’s home from home as much as possible.
“We try to look after the whole family too, with open visiting. We recognise they are going through difficult times and we do our best for them.
“There are no less than 280 volunteers who work for the hospice on a whole variety from working in the charity shops to day care reception and helping the patients. Without them, his hospice simply couldn’t run.”
Among the services offered are 12 bed spaces that operate 24 hours a day every day of the year, complimentary therapy, pain medication and the facilities to host 15 day-care patients at one time.
In addition to that, an outreach team visit patients managing to live in the community, but who need extra support to remain at home.
Emma Roberts, head of special palliative care services for the Nottinghamshire Health Care Trust said: “Historically hospices are associated with cancer and trying to make it equitable living with life-limiting illnesses, but patients can be suffering from anything from heart failure to MS.
“The word ’hospice’ comes with its own barriers because it is associated with cancer, but if you look at the stats you will probably see a gradual change in attitude for the better towards hospices over the last few years.
“By getting people through the door, they can see it’s not a scary place. Hospices are not necessarily about dying, it’s about helping people to live and manage their symptoms. 50 per cent of people go back home and the average length of an in-patient stay is two weeks.”
One of the ways the hospice has been trying to engage the community since March is to hold an open group on Wednesdays.
People who are normally seen by staff at home and are picked up and brought to the hospice, where a range of group exercises are organised.
Emma said: “It can sometimes be a barrier when you are talking to a clinician in a medical environment, but they can open up to volunteers, who can find out what is most worrying a patient.
“They’ve been really great in helping to set up the Wednesday Group. They give so much time and a lot of them have had significant experience of bereavement in their lives so they have a lot to give.”
Families are offered a bereavement support service and - since September - commemorative services have been organised for relatives of those who have died, with a chaplain on hand.
“Bereavement support can be, for instance, with parents who’ve lost grown up children,” said Emma. “Having someone to talk to in a similar situation can really help and some groups continue to meet after the sessions have officially finished. You have someone you can relate to about the best and worst times.”
John Snelson Social Activities coordinator, has been working at the John Eastwood Hospice for 20 years and endeavours to make the programme he offers as wide ranging as possible.
On site, everything from cake baking and flower arranging to pottery to and model making is arranged.
There are also regular trips out which vary from shopping excursions to Chatsworth visits.
“If we can accommodate patients, then we will do,” said John. “The Trust are very supportive in what we do.
We have a great team of therapists, but this is making it fun and going at it from a different angle.
“It’s good to patients out and mixing with other people and getting them to feel good about themselves. The more they mix with others, the less isolated they are.
“With the arts and crafts we do, it can help with hand-eye co-ordination and in making something they can leave a positive legacy. It makes people feel good and their family are proud.
Barrie Elliott has been a volunteer since 1994, having become involved after his first wife died, driving day care patients to and from the hospice.
He has been inspired by some of the people he has met and said: “I saw a letter in the Chad in late 1993 asking for volunteer drivers and I’d done a couple of sponsored walks for the hospice.
“I like to talk to people and I see it as my mission to do that. I think I get as much out of it as the patients do.
“Yes, there are said times, especially when youngsters are affected, and you get to know people and them lose them.
“But overall it’s a very positive attitude and it’s about treating people individually and with the respect they deserve.”
Patient Stefan Wozniczka, 87, of Mansfield, who suffers from respiratory problems, has been a regular visitor to the John Eastwood Hospice.
He said: “Coming once a week and it’s great just for me to get out and about, as opposed to being at home on my own.
“My family come to see me when they can but most of my old friends aren’t with us anymore, so this way I get to see more people. The staff here and very helpful and do what they can for you.”
The spirit of togetherness that exists a the John Eastwood Hospice is summered up by the recent efforts of staff to raise money for other charities as well as John Eastwood.
Occupational therapist Michelle Stendall is part of a 22-strong team doing Race For Life in aid Cancer Research UK on Saturday with a 5k at Clumber Park, after a colleague was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It’s the caring attitude that has become synonymous with the John Eastwood Hospice - and a reputation they will strive vigorously to uphold.