Norfolk legacy to continue as £12.5m appeal launched for new hospice
- Credit: Priscilla Bacon Hospice
Her name is synonymous with high quality end of life care and there is scarcely a family in Norfolk who has not been touched by the service she dedicated herself to.
Now, the legacy of Priscilla, Lady Bacon, is to flourish as an ambitious bid to relocate and expand the hospice which bears her name is to be launched tonight.
The original Priscilla Bacon Lodge, at the Colman Hospital on Unthank Road, has a 40-year history, having opened in July 1979.
But there is an urgent need for expansion and modernisation - the population of Norfolk has grown threefold since it was built.
In 2015 10,615 people died in Norfolk and Waveney, and 7,380 of them needed palliative care.
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But in central Norfolk there are just 16 specialist palliative care beds, when it is recommended the area should have between 41 and 59.
Lady Bacon, who took over as president of charity in 2000 when her mother in law Priscilla, Lady Bacon died in the hospice itself, said: 'I made it my desperately important priority to put Priscilla Bacon Lodge at the top of my list of things to do.'
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She said her family had a strong interest in palliative care, but then marrying Sir Nicholas in 1981 meant she saw the dedication her mother in law put into the original Priscilla Bacon Lodge, which opened after it took just 16 months for the £250,000 needed to be raised.
Another £450,000 was raised in 1986 for a much-needed extension.
'It's important to keep this legacy,' Lady Bacon said. 'It's being able to combine that history and those roots with the future. And it's very much a Norfolk project, I think it's very much about Norfolk people.'
Lady Bacon said she often took the famous snowdrops grown on the family estate at Raveningham Hall into the current lodge for patients.
The snowdrop is the logo of Priscilla Bacon Hospice, and Priscilla, Lady Bacon was an expert in the flower - with a variety even being named after her in her honour.
'What I see [when I go there] is the personal care,' Lady Bacon said. 'Every single person is given a personal approach to how they are cared for. It's doing something meaningful for Norfolk. The care is personal - and when I say care I mean it in the real sense of the word - they do care about each person and a good death is a very important thing for everybody.
'I've met so many families who have not been about to get their loved one into Priscilla Bacon Lodge, which makes me very impassioned about it.'
Lady Bacon said the key was for the public and private sector to work together for the same outcome, underlining the importance of NHS funding to run the facility.
'That's why we're different,' she said. 'And it's got to have that public support.'
The plans to move sites had been in place since Lady Bacon took over, and had even gained the backing of Dame Cicely Saunders, who began the hospice movement, before her death in 2005.
Dame Cicley was a good friend of Priscilla, Lady Bacon.
Lady Bacon said: 'I wrote to her and said we have to do this for Norfolk and her agreement with how we were going to do it was very poignant and important to me because she was the person who set up the modern hospice movement.'
And she was sure the Norfolk public would generously raise the funds needed for the new hospice, just as they had done more than 40 years ago.
'There's no doubt in my mind,' she said.
The new hospice will cost £12.5m to build - but already £3m has been pledged.
Crucially, the NHS has committed to covering the running cost of the hospice, making it sustainable.
The significance of good end of life care was outlined by Julian Wells, whose father Bill died at Priscilla Bacon Lodge in 2013.
Mr Wells, co-director of FW Properties, said his father was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011 and told he had two years to live.
Mr Wells, 49, said: '18 months after his diagnosis my mother Mary died very suddenly which was awful, and it took the stuffing out of dad and he then went downhill very swiftly.'
Mr Wells, his brother James and sister Jennie, looked after their father but Mr Wells said: 'His condition was getting worse and he was getting weaker and weaker.'
A bed became available at Priscilla Bacon Lodge, and even though Bill was fiercely independent Mr Wells said the expertise of staff was shown when a nurse recommended he take the bed, as he did not have as much time left as he expected.
'And she was right, he died within a week,' he said. 'She got it absolutely spot on and having that early advice was fantastic.'
And Mr Wells said throughout his stay not only was his father treated with care, respect, and dignity, but the family was too.
'That's so important,' he said. 'The first thing is you want to see your loved one not in pain and being looked after well. And the other thing is you all want to know what's happening and they were very good at talking us through what was happening.
'It also meant there was a place we could all go and see him. It enabled my father to die with little discomfort and with his dignity.'
Mr Wells said his father's final words emphasised the brilliant care at the lodge, when shortly before he died Mr Well's sister asked how he was feeling, and he said: 'I feel wonderful.'
Mr Wells said: 'From a family perspective you cannot ask for anything more from that fantastic team, at the point of death when he knew he was in touching distance with mum he was not scared of death, he was totally at peace and he had said all his goodbyes.
'It was a deeply spiritual moment for us all. I don't remember him ever being in much discomfort.'
Mark Nicholas, chief executive of Priscilla Bacon Norfolk Hospice Care, said: 'In terms of its significance this is likely to be the largest appeal of it's kind in Norfolk.'
Mr Nicholas said it seemed like the right time to launch the appeal, as the nook appeal - a £10m bid by East Anglia's Children's Hospice to build a new facility in Quidenham - comes to a close this summer.
'There's 40 years of history running in relationship with the NHS, that relationship simply moves over to the Priscilla Bacon Hospice. Of course that makes it viable so we intend to raise the money to build it and then allow the NHS to run it, which is the best of both worlds.'
The new state-of-the-art building is planned for close to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
'Placing it at the hospital, it's a no brainer,' Mr Nicholas said. 'The university will be on board with this as well, and cancer charity The Big C. It just makes sense.
'I think [the hospice] makes a huge amount of difference, especially to the families because the care is shared with families so they feel very involved.'
And Mr Nicholas pointed out that everything they did would be with care in mind. He said: 'The word hospice comes from hospitality.
'I have no doubt that the people of Norfolk will come together to make this hospice a reality and I think that funding comes from a variety of sources, there's going to be a community and events, funding drives. We want to mobilise the entire county to get behind this.
'We've already received tremendous pledges that will give us a good head start.'
If all goes well, it is hoped the hospice could be opened in 2023.
According to plans the new hospice will offer:
• 24 palliative care inpatient beds;
• Family rooms for relatives and patients with young children;
• Gardens accessible from bedrooms;
• Comfortable public areas;
• Improve day care and therapeutic facilities;
• Education and seminar facilities;
• And a dedicated centre for specialist palliative and end of life care to be delivered in people's own homes.
The Rt Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich and outgoing chairman of Priscilla Bacon Hospice, said: 'The way we care for those who have life-threatening illnesses, or are dying, reveals how we care truly for the living and one of the great qualities of hospices is the lightness, the welcome spirit of them, and that's very important in providing end of life care.
'We believe that people and families from across the county should have access to the very best end-of-life-care and palliative services we can provide.
'The work carried out by the team at the current hospice is outstanding, but we need to build a fit for purpose facility which will serve the needs of Norfolk's growing and ageing population.'
The incoming chairman, Robert Carter, added: '40 years ago the people of Norfolk were asked to help raise funds for the county's first ever hospice, and since that time Priscilla Bacon Lodge has cared for thousands of patients and families who needed help and support. Now it is our turn.'
Mr Nicholas said: '40 years on we are asking for support from the next generation of funders, businesses and families and friends as we call upon the people of Norfolk to come together to mobilise an army of volunteers and fundraisers to help us build a specialist hospice fit for the future.
'Today's launch is a rallying call for the start of the fundraising activity as we all work towards giving the county the hospice care it deserves.'
'We have worked closely with NHS partners and stakeholders to find a location which can provide the clinical support needed, combined with the space to grow in the coming years. This will mean we can help more people than ever face a challenging time in their lives with compassion and dignity.'
The appeal will be officially launched tonight (Wednesday) at the John Innes Centre where the importance of the appeal will be further explored.
To donate, visit www.priscillabaconhospice.org.uk/support-us/donate/ or to donate offline contact Priscilla Bacon Hospice on email@example.com or by writing to 9-11 Drayton High Road, Norwich NR8 6AH.