Next year St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle is to celebrate its 30th birthday.
The charity has spent three decades offering support and expert care for patients with life limiting or progressive illnesses.
But not one to rest on its laurels, bosses are already planning for the future and have launched a 10-year strategy called Vision 2025.
In it, the charity sets out what it aims to achieve in the next decade to ensure that North East adults, children and young people continue to receive the best care available.
James Ellam, chief executive, explains more: “We’ve cared for thousands of families since 1986 and we’re very proud of our reputation as a leading provider of specialist palliative care in the region.
“By launching Vision 2025, we have outlined our plans to ensure we’ll continue to provide high quality care; to lead the development of palliative care regionally; to ensure we have the right staff in place to deliver excellent services; and the ability to work flexibly, making the very best use of charity monies.”
Now a much-loved institution in the North East, St Oswald’s provides overnight and day care for patients with life-limiting or progressive illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.
The idea for it began in the early 1970s after local woman, Dorothy Jameson, decided to act on her belief that people in the North-East facing terminal illness ought to receive the same type of care and support offered by St Christopher’s Hospice in London, where her daughter worked.
She set about recruiting friends to the cause as well as groups within the business, legal and medical professions – encouraging them to get involved and share her vision.
By late 1982 the campaign had gathered momentum and substantial backing, and a £2m appeal was launched to build a 29-bed hospice and a day centre in Gosforth.
There was enormous support from the local community – schools, companies, groups, trusts and individuals.
Building work started in June 1984 and on Monday, July 7 1986, St Oswald’s Hospice opened its doors. Since then, thousands of North-East families have benefited from it.
May 2000 saw the launch of the next stage of the charity’s development – a purpose-built children’s respite centre.
That required £5.1m. But once again individuals, companies and organisations in the region rose to the challenge.
The Jigsaw Appeal – providing the missing piece – was supported by this newspaper and the centre was officially opened by Prince Charles in 2004.
Angela Egdell, now director of care services, has been at St Oswald’s almost from the start and is proud to be a part of an organisation which the North East community has taken to its heart.
She said while it has been supported by the NHS and social care, “the bulk of the money comes from the person on the street”.
She added: “First and foremost we’re a charity which has been taken to heart by the people of the North East.
“We don’t have a head office in London. All the money raised goes to this facility here for patients from the North East.”
And, she says, what if offers fulfils a growing need for the type of people it deals with.
“Children who weren’t expected to survive are living longer with all the medical advances but a lot of services in the UK aren’t keeping pace with them,” she said.
St Oswald’s Vision 2025 initiative includes a number of future actions that the charity aims to achieve by 2025:
* To open additional adult inpatient beds
* To increase capacity to care for patients with a non-cancer diagnosis
* To expand the children’s hospice and facilitate independent living for young adults
* To develop a family support service for carers and bereaved adults and children
* To develop a funded, community-based network of lymphoedema services
* To lead the development of a North East palliative care education centre
* To create alliances with other local providers to increase access to palliative care
* To ensure co-ordinated out-of-hours palliative care and advice is available across the region.
Mr Ellam said: “It’s a very exciting time at St Oswald’s.
“Our plans for the future are ambitious and will involve us working with a wide range of external stakeholders to ensure we reach our goals and develop services around the changing needs of the local people we serve.
“It’s a ten-year plan and we’ve got the passion, skills and dedication of our staff and volunteers to help us get there.
“However, we’ll only succeed with continued support from the North East community.
“As a charity, we rely on voluntary giving and legacies to be able to offer our wide range of hospice services.
“Each year, local people support us through a variety of ways – through a regular gift, school or company fundraising activities, buying goods in our shops or perhaps attending an event – and collectively raise over £7m towards our work.
“It’s a staggering amount of money raised and on behalf of all those we care for, a huge thank you to everyone.
“We couldn’t do what we do without you and hope you’ll continue to support us and be part of our future.”
Ms Egdell says it’s impossible to put an exact figure on the amount of people who they have helped. A rough guide is that they have dealt with around 2,000 patients a year for the past 29 years.
And, as has been revealed with its Vision 2025, the services it provides and who they are providing it for is always expanding.
She added: “We hope it will be around many years to come and will continue to grow for the next 30 years - long after I’ve gone.”