Why Dying Matters is an important week in Norfolk

A patient is treated at Priscilla Bacon Lodge

A patient is treated at Priscilla Bacon Lodge - Credit: Archant

Mark Nicholas MBE, CEO Priscilla Bacon Norfolk Hospice Care, explains what the Dying Matters initiative is and why it's important to talk about death

This week a series of events will be held across the county to raise awareness of the importance of discussing death. Dying Matters is a nationwide initiative led by Hospice UK and supported locally by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, MacMillan Cancer Support and local health groups. In recent years we've opened up to talking about mental health but discussing death is still seen as taboo as it's not something we want to prepare for and we don't want to think about losing loved ones or friends. Yet death is the one certainty in life, so preparing for this emotionally is an important part of coming to terms with loss. But it's not just the mental side of death that needs supporting, as we must provide the facilities and resources for people to die in a dignified and appropriate way.

Official data suggests that this year nearly 12,000 people will die in Norfolk and Waveney and over 8,700 of them will require some form of palliative or end of life care. In the best-case patients may be treated at home and in the worst case, they may live their final days on a hospital ward lacking dignity and peace despite the best efforts of hard-working staff. Some people who require specialist palliative care may be lucky enough to receive care in a hospice. I say lucky enough, because Norfolk desperately lacks the hospice beds needed to meet the demands of a rising and aging population. In central Norfolk and Waveney we should have 47-59 specialist palliative care beds yet we have just 16.

The very nature of the Hospice Movement in the UK is to improve the lives of people who have an incurable illness. Hospices provide care for people from the point at which their illness is diagnosed as terminal to the end of their life, however long that may be, however old or young the patient.

We've been lucky for the last forty years to have the Priscilla Bacon Lodge in Norwich. Built in 1979 by public subscription the Lodge has provided care for tens of thousands of people from across the county. The remarkable NHS staff now have an uphill battle delivering care in a building that can no longer cope with the demand.

That is why the Priscilla Bacon Norfolk Hospice Care charity has launched a capital appeal to raise £12.5M and build a state-of-the-art hospice adjacent to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The new hospice will not only provide up to 24 inpatient beds, thereby significantly increasing capacity for the most deserving of patients, it will deliver extensive day patient services, a hub for the coordination of the 'Hospice at Home' initiative and offer a platform for education and research.

So when we all come together next week to talk about death and dying in a more open and progressive manner, it's also essential we look to the physical support that those requiring end-of-life-care need. By bringing together the emotional and practical needs we can give the county the palliative care it deserves.

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The new Priscilla Bacon Hospice will help transform how people are able to die in Norfolk and Waveney. It is quite possibly the most important capital appeal of its time and we need your help to make a difference.

To find out more about the appeal and how to donate visit www.priscillabaconhospice.org.uk