It was recently the first anniversary of the opening of the hospice shop in Shifnal.  It does not feel like a year since I was invited along to help the Mayor of Shifnal to open the shop, but it seems that the shop has had a very successful year in terms of sales. Certainly I have noticed people using the shop to purchase and/or deliver goods, and a number of people have told me how much they value the presence of the shop in Shifnal, since they want to support the hospice.

So I have been prompted to think about hospice activities, and how people get to hear about them, as well as realising that there are still far too many folk who are not aware of the wide range of support that the hospice offers.  If you have looked at my early blogs, you will realise that at first I was pretty ignorant of the full scope.  I knew about the in-patient care, especially for those who were near the end of their lives, and I also knew a bit about lymphodema support and occupational therapy in home care because of my wife’s cancer problems.

I’d also heard a bit about the Day Hospice provision, without really getting to know just what it had to offer.  But as for appreciating the full range of support offered by the Day Hospice and the hospice overall, I really had a very limited perspective.  Even fairly basic facts were unknown to me:  for example, I had not realised that the hospice operates not only at Apley in Telford and Bicton Heath in Shrewsbury, but also has a Day Hospice in Newtown, helping to serve people in North Powys.  Nor had I realised that the hospice operates no fewer than 21 shops.

As for the Hospice at Home, the bereavement support service and groups like the Severn Strollers, I had only sketchy notions.  So I have been pondering about how people learn about the hospice and all the fantastic work that it does.  For me, it has become a voyage of discovery as firstly my wife started to receive help because of her cancer, and then I have followed in her footsteps with my own cancer and other problems.  I suppose that for many people, their awareness of the hospice’s activities has also been raised from experiencing their own health problems, or health issues for loved ones, relatives and friends.

That certainly is one way of spreading the word, and it is pretty revealing to look at some of the statistics.  For example, the hospice received over 1900 referrals last year, and more than 500 in-patient admissions. There were 4000+ Day Hospice attendances.  The Hospice at Home service supported 300 patients, and clinical nurse specialists provided 1900 home visits and 1300 hospital visits.  I could go on but it is better to suggest looking at the Hospice’s Yearbook, and financial statement.

One statistic which I find truly amazing is the number of people who are prepared to act as volunteers for the hospice:  there are over 1000 people who wish to spend some of their time supporting the various hospice activities.   A significant proportion assist in the hospice shops, whilst others act as volunteer drivers,  perform administrative and reception duties, work in the wards and the day units, or work in the gardens or arranging flowers to enhance the ambience of the hospice facilities (the hospice has been the recipient of Britain in Bloom It’s Your Neighbourhood awards).

The significance of their efforts cannot be under-estimated.  The shops are an important source of funds, for example, and the volunteers in the wards and day units release the qualified professional staff to be able to spend more time on skilled medical care.  One resulting benefit is the ability of the hospice to cater for more patients, which is valuable given the continual demand for its services.

Apart from the social benefits provided by the hospice in supporting patients and their families, there are significant economic benefits.  The hospice spends around £9 million each year in the local economy, and some of this is taking the load off the NHS and other public services. So where does the money come from?  Again, take a look at the Yearbook and financial statements on the website, but there are essentially six main categories:

Donations and events – around 20%

Legacies – around 15%

Lottery – around 13%

Retail – just under 10%

Investments – just over 3%

NHS grants – nearly 40%

These are the 2011-12 figures.  However, it is clear that the NHS grant is a major help but has to be seen as under considerable pressure in these tough economic times.  So the first four categories are crucial, and  the voluntary effort contributes by considerably reducing what would otherwise be a much greater need for income.  Some of the events are organised by the hospice, such as fire-walking and Dragon Boat racing, whilst others are organised by individuals and groups, often in memory of loved ones who have received care, or are currently receiving care.

Well, the problem with all these facts and figures is that they are all essentially historical, and the hospice has to keep looking forward, and remember especially factors like the current economic situation.  For example, there may be over a thousand volunteers today, but the number will keep changing as people move, or their circumstances change.  So there is a continuing need to recruit new volunteers.

Similarly the difficult economic period makes it harder for people to maintain their levels of donation, or support the retail activities of the hospice.  NHS grants are also coming under pressure.  All of these things mean that it is essential to keep raising the profile of the hospice to encourage new volunteers and new financial supporters. The hospice seeks to achieve this in a number of ways:  by the presence of its shops, through media coverage, through fundraising events, and by the website itself which includes stories from patients and relatives.

There are various individual efforts, of course, with sponsored events and activities undertaken by people who are keen to support the work of the hospice.  That includes patients, incidentally.  For example, although I am somewhat limited in what I can do these days, I do manage to provide some financial support, and I have recorded a CD with a couple of friends which has raised money for the hospice.  If only I could do more!  I suspect that my family and friends would say that I do, since I am always bending their ears about the fabulous care and help which the hospice has provided for me!

That is obviously one way of spreading the word, as I said earlier, but there cannot be too much awareness-raising activity, o if you have any bright ideas about this, why not contact the hospice with your thoughts?  In the days of my youth ii would have been a question of ideas on a postcard, please!  But these days it is so easy to send an email.  I know that all contributions would be welcome.


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