Leeds hospices ‘go extra mile’ for patients

Jayne Upperton, matron at St Gemma's Hospice chats with patient Brian Harrison. PIC: Tony Johnson
Jayne Upperton, matron at St Gemma's Hospice chats with patient Brian Harrison. PIC: Tony Johnson
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This week – to mark the 40th anniversaries of St Gemma’s and Wheatfields hospices in Leeds – we are running a series of features looking at the impact they have made on the city. Today Joanna Wardill looks at personal experiences of hospice care.

As demand increases for the services of both St Gemma’s and Wheatfields – with more people across the city needing their support than ever before – what has always remained constant is the quality of care they provide year in, year out.

That care revolves around the needs of patients and their families, with staff doing all they can – physically, emotionally and spiritually – to make a difference.

From setting up weddings or family barbecues or impromptu music concerts at the hospice to providing first-class medical care with highly-trained nurses, doctors and professionals in nutrition, social work, occupational health and physiotherapy – all is set up with the patient in mind.

For Jayne Upperton, matron at St Gemma’s Hospice, it was experiencing first-hand the care of staff at the Moortown hospice where her father was an in-patient 14 years ago, that made her vow to work there.

She said: “As a nurse for many years, I just saw this extra mile that St Gemma’s nurses were able to go – a whole-person approach to everything. It was all about the patient and the family and what works for them – in life and in death. I was sitting with my dad one evening when he was dying and I just said to a nurse, ‘How do you do this every day?’ and he said ‘because we can make a difference’. That just stuck with me.”

Ten years later, in 2014, Jayne landed a leadership role at the hospice and has never looked back.

“The ethos continues now. Our work revolves around what’s right for the patient and family. That’s what makes a difference. Our NHS colleagues don’t have the luxury of this, but for us it’s our core business. Such as complementary therapies. Other things we pride ourselves in is if a patient has any last wishes, we can help organise that.”

She recalled a couple of years ago asking a patient if there was anything she wanted.

“She said, ‘Yes, Frank Sinatra’. Someone said we have a CD but I thought we could do better than that.”

A phone call later and an impersonator visited the following evening to serenade the patient free of charge. “He sang to this lady on his knees in the [ward] bay, it was fabulous,” said Jayne.