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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

St Christopher's Hospice

As part of researching an article on Marian Bohusz-Szyszko I recently visited St Christopher's Hospice.

Founded by Dame Cicely Saunders in 1967 St Christopher’s Hospice was the first modern hospice, now providing the highest quality care to over 2,000 dying individuals each year on their inpatient wards and in people’s own homes. It has been a pioneer in the field of palliative medicine, which is now established worldwide. The ongoing impact of St Christopher’s clinical innovations and their extensive programmes of education and research improve care for dying people well beyond their geographical location and influence standards of healthcare throughout the world. The Education Centre provides a portfolio of palliative care courses, education and training that  improve end of life care in a range of settings.

Dame Cicely‘s vision and work transformed the care of the dying and the practice of medicine. She understood that a dying person is more than a patient with symptoms to be controlled and became convinced of the paramount importance of combining excellent medical and nursing care with “holistic” support that recognised practical, emotional, social, and spiritual need. She saw the dying person and the family as the unit of care and developed bereavement services at St Christopher's Hospice to extend support beyond the death of the patient.

Living life creatively during serious illness can also be important. Patients and carers have said that capturing their life story or gaining new possibilities through the arts can be a rewarding and meaningful experience. Nigel Hartley and Malcolm Payne, who both work at St Christopher's, have edited an excellent book The creative arts in palliative care that explores the use of creative therapies in the hospice. The use of pottery, painting, craft work, digital arts, art therapy and music and music therapy are all explored as are examples of outreach work.

St Christopher’s are currently engaged in a dynamic, annual creative arts partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts. This particular project captures the views of dying people and those who care for them through the creation of a range of artistic self-portraits using various artistic mediums including photography, quilt making, painting, drawing, creative writing and music making.

Dame Cicely‘s vision to establish her own home for the dying was underpinned by her religious faith. She had initially thought of creating an Anglican religious community but broadened her vision so that St Christopher's became a place that welcomed staff and patients of any faith or none. However, her strong Christian faith was a fundamental factor in her commitment to the dying and remained an anchor throughout her life.


Al Green - Take Your Time.

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