Anita Hall speaks to Chief Executive Barbara Williams and Data & Insight Officer Steve Clements
What is St Peter & St James Hospice?
We provide care and support for people towards and at the end of life, and also help and support their carers and families. We have 14 beds in the Hospice, and also support over 200 people in the community every month. We cover Lewes, Uckfield, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks and the surrounding villages.
How did the Hospice start?
We always say it started with a donkey, as we were a donkey sanctuary first, and still have two donkeys today. In 1951, Jim Dinnage, whose wife Susan founded St Peter & St James, came home with a donkey he’d bought. They then rescued a further 13.
A year later, their son, Peter, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and they started to run donkey derbies to help fund his care. Unfortunately, Peter died in 1954, but Jim and Susan decided to set up a holiday home for ill and disabled children. That moved to the site here in Wivelsfield in 1975, and later became St Peter & St James Hospice. It has nothing to do with any saints – it’s named after Jim and Peter!
What do you do?
We help people have the best possible experience at the end of life, and to live well until they die. We try to provide whatever each individual needs, at home or in our hospice – so we might have the whole family staying here, sometimes including pets.
We also help to unpick all the various issues involved when someone is ill or dying, from a carer taking time off work, through to available benefits and allowances. We offer counselling and befriending services, drop-in activities and respite care. We also provide expert advice to GPs, nurses and others involved in caring for people who are dying.
While the NHS provides palliative care, people say hospice care offers a qualitative difference, as we have more time to spend with each person. We have a holistic focus, and we find the individual underneath all the anxiety and illness. Our beautiful grounds are full of wildlife, and our two cats, Willow and Jasper, provide comfort to visitors. We even bring our donkeys, Dylan and Dudley, in to visit – there’s something special about a nuzzle from a soft nose!
How can people help?
We encourage people to donate items to our shops, volunteer with us, or leave a gift in their wills. Less than 20% of our income comes from the NHS or statutory sources; the rest is fundraised through events such as our Virtual Triathlon, which takes place throughout February.
This year it’s our 45th birthday, and we want to launch Hospice in the Home, so we can offer people more choice at the end of life. Then, if someone says they’d rather go home to die, we can say, ‘Okay, we’ll come with you and support you.’