Calls for compromise between two Gorleston hospice charities after ‘disagreement’

The Louise Hamilton Centre next to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston. View of empty l

The Louise Hamilton Centre next to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston. View of empty land behind the centre. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

Two charities vying to build two hospices must reach a compromise, the former chairman of East Coast Hospice has said.

David Nettleship, former chairman of East Coast Hospice

David Nettleship, former chairman of East Coast Hospice - Credit: Archant © 2009

David Nettleship (pictured, left) criticised both East Coast Hospice (ECH) and Palliative Care East (PCE) in an open letter, stating two hospices are not needed.

Jenny Beesley, current chairman of East Coast Hospice

Jenny Beesley, current chairman of East Coast Hospice - Credit: James Bass

He penned his thoughts after a 'fundamental disagreement' about where a hospice should be built.

ECH is adamant a hospice must be independent and has bought a site in Hopton, but PCE is pursuing its own hospice in the grounds of the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) in Gorleston.

Mr Nettleship stepped down in May after talks about a hospice next to the Louise Hamilton Centre stalled.

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In time he had hoped the 'pressing needs' of cancer patients like Yarmouth woman Louise Gedge - who made an emotive plea for a hospice by the hospital - would bring a 'better focus'.

Mr Nettleship has also broken his silence on how he felt about ECH - leading him to resign. He added: 'As soon as the talks with PCE were suggested there were howls of protest both from within ECH and externally.'

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'I had to take abusive phone calls, there was a string of demands from donors who wanted their money back, everything possible was done to make life difficult and in the end my only conclusion was that there was a group that would stop at very little to control the strategy of the charity.'

He said he was not prepared to work with 'such people' and felt they would be

an 'immovable obstacle' to any new discussions.

A hospice in the grounds of the hospital should not be ruled out, he added, but only if the hospice could remain independent and a good working relationship with the hospital was possible.

He added it is 'obvious' to him that two hospices are not needed, but more research of the hospital site option is needed.

'For me the idea of building a charitable hospice on the JPH site remains one that certainly has merits but has not really been explored because of the earlier difficulties,' he wrote.

'To do so would take a willingness to discuss facilities and how it would be run, as well as demonstrably independent and accountable management of how the charitable funds would be applied and spent.'

He said he believes the existence of two hospice charities is to the detriment of everyone, and a compromise must be reached as a matter of urgency.

'Those of us at ECH who saw and were motivated by the exciting possibilities of a partnership approach with PCE also felt that there would be much more public support if people knew they were giving to one local end of life care charity,' he wrote.

'At the moment there is needless confusion in the public mind, people like Louise Gedge are still suffering, and all for the want of a little flexibility, sensible compromises, and some imagination.'

Hospital chairman's letter

The chairman of the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) has recognised a hospice decision must be taken 'as soon as possible'.

In an open letter, David Wright praised the efforts of charities for the terminally ill.

But he noted: 'It is no wonder that there is confusion and it is certainly sad that it inevitably comes across as a bit of a battle between equally dedicated charities.

'We recognise that a decision should be taken as soon as possible on how to proceed.

'We will be seeking to work closely with everyone to agree a way forward.

'This may or may not involve a fundraising appeal for a new building.

'No firm decision has yet been taken.

'I can only try to assure the people of Yarmouth and Waveney that our intentions are to provide the best services possible within the funding that we have at our disposal.

'Any choices that we make in this regard will be taken carefully, and as quickly as we can.'

He said the area is already blessed with 'some excellent palliative care services' and most people with serious illness are supported at home.

Those with more complex illnesses receive care from a combination of the professionals at the JPH, charitable organisations, such as St Elizabeth's Hospice and others.

'In our community this model of care seems to be able provide for most people,' he claimed.

But he conceded 'all is not perfect'.

To improve, the health service is considering how to ensure the best care at every stage of an illness and the fact that not everyone can be cared for at home.

'This is where the confusion has arisen because there are two charitable groups that are eager to get on and build new facilities,' wrote Mr Wright. 'One of these is the East Coast Hospice, which is dedicated to building Margaret Chadd House in Sidegate Road.

'The other is Palliative Care East which is keen to develop from the successful Louise Hamilton Centre, a small unit on the hospital site that can provide for all those who need the facilities of the hospital nearby, yet in their last days do not need the hustle and bustle of a busy acute hospital ward.'

He said hospital estimates are that no more than eight to 10 specialised dedicated beds are needed, as the remainder of patients can be supported by the existing network of GPs, community nurses, St Elizabeth's or the specialist palliative care team based at the JPH.

But bosses are still considering the best solution.

'We are encouraged by the willingness of the community, who responded magnificently to the appeal to build the Louise Hamilton Centre,' wrote Mr Wright. 'Many of the same fundraisers believe that they can raise the further £3m to build a new hospice on site, and a million a year for five years to staff it. 'They are keen to get on with it.

'In the meantime, the equally enthusiastic team behind the East Coast Hospice seem to have a head of steam to set up a stand-alone hospice that is detached from the NHS.

'Additionally there is the St Elizabeth's Hospice that already provides services locally and needs to continue to fund raise.'

He stressed the board of the hospital is looking closely at how to achieve the right services for all.

'Independent hospice vision must go ahead'

The woman at the helm of East Coast Hospice says she believes Palliative Care East's vision to build a hospice next to the hospital would run the risk of NHS cuts.

And Jenny Beesley, the group's new chairman, is adamant East Coast Hospice's (ECH) vision must go ahead.

'Since June we have completed the purchase of our land in Sidegate Road, Hopton just under a mile by road from the James Paget University Hospital (JPH),' she wrote in an open letter. 'This discounts the myth that we are miles way, and allows us to remain totally independent.

'The people of Great Yarmouth and Waveney were adamant in May this year that they wanted us to continue to build an independent hospice.

'We have honoured our word and will continue to do so.'

Mrs Beesley said the support of the public is 'paramount' to the success of ECH, which must raise £4m for construction costs and more for annual running costs.

'Each day the hospice and its services are not open many patients have an unacceptable death,' she wrote. 'Why should Great Yarmouth and Waveney be one of only two areas in England that does not have a hospice?

'With people's support and help we intend to end this inequity of provision of end of life care by building Margaret Chadd House.

'We will then no longer be part of a negative minority but become part of a positive majority.'

She extended her thanks to all who have donated, and vowed ECH would succeed in its 'mission'.

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