Leeds charity St Gemma's Hospice sets out vision for the future

A charity which has been helping terminally-ill people and their families for four decades has set out its vision for the future.

St Gemma's Hospice chairman Dr Peter Belfield, chief executive Kerry Jackson and chief medical officer Dr Mike Stockton.
St Gemma's Hospice chairman Dr Peter Belfield, chief executive Kerry Jackson and chief medical officer Dr Mike Stockton.

St Gemma's Hospice in Leeds is set to play a vital role in the city's health and social care system over the next 10 years as rising numbers of people need end-of-life care.

The organisation, which runs a residential hospice in Moortown and has charity shops around the city, set out its plans for the future at an event at Leeds Civic Hall last night (Thursday).

Experts say access to specialist palliative care helps avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and invasive treatments which may have limited benefit for terminally-ill people.

Dr Mike Stockton, chief medical officer at St Gemma's, explained how the hospice will work with NHS organisations to extend palliative care services.

He said: "We know that 20 per cent of NHS spend is on patients in their last year of life.

"We are aware that not everyone who would benefit from our care receives it, and that the number of people who need our care is rising. By 2040 there will be a 25 per cent increase in the number of deaths in England, and with it a growth in complexity of care as people die at an older age.

"This is in an environment where we face shortages in key workforce groups as well as financial constraints."

One if four emergency hospital admissions are for people in the last 12 months of their life, NHS figures show.

People in the final year of their life also make up around 30 per cent of patients in hospital beds at any given time.

Hospice chief executive Kerry Jackson said: "We need to respond to all of these challenges and that is why we have set out a strategy for the next 10 years and are developing detailed plans to support it

"These are connecting with others, driving the greatest impact through research and education, and extending our services to meet these growing needs in our community.

"We are committed to leading and shaping the future of palliative care in Leeds, and believe that we can only do this working in partnership."

Along with pain relief and nursing care, St Gemma's provides vital support for families, including bereavement counselling. Many patients also benefit from temporary stays at the hospice and the use of out-patient services which help prolong their lives.

But the services could not be provided without an army of volunteers and huge fundraising efforts.

Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of the national charity Hospice UK, said: "Hospices have to raise £1bn every year from the public to survive.

"It's absolutely incredible. But it's really difficult out there. And we want to go out and help more people.

"When somebody is at the end of life they have one chance. We want to make sure we grab that chance and give everybody the end of life they need."

The care provided by St Gemma's has been rated as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission and the organisation is a Times Top 100 employer.

Ms Jackson said: "We are always looking for ways to improve that care further, whether this is through working with homeless people, supporting carers and the bereaved or engaging with people from communities who do not currently access our services."