Hospice be­gan with one wo­man’s vi­sion…

THE Pil­grims hos­pices across east Kent are pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate the day in June 1982 when Queen El­iz­a­beth the Queen Mother came to Kent to launch the start of the re­mark­able char­ity that cares for those with ter­mi­nal ill­ness. Mike Ben­nett speaks to the

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OFF THE RECORD - by Mike Ben­nett

IN DAYS past, a hospice was sim­ply a place of rest for trav­ellers and al­though now the mod­ern hospice is still a sanc­tu­ary for peace and com­fort, it is also a refuge for deal­ing with ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

At three cen­tres of ex­cel­lence in Ash­ford, Can­ter­bury and Thanet, east Kent Pil­grims hos­pices have pro­vided ex­pert pal­lia­tive care for thou­sands of pa­tients over a quar­ter of a cen­tury. But many in the com­mu­nity still don’t re­alise that it is a char­ity rather than an NHS ser­vice.

It was one wo­man who pro­vided the vi­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion to start and sus­tain the re­mark­able ser­vices.

As a dis­trict nurse based in rural Wing­ham in 1972, Ann Robert­son was very aware of the prob­lems of ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

In 1978 she called a meet­ing of 15 peo­ple she per­suaded to share her dream and shortly af­ter­wards was awarded a nurs­ing prize that en­abled her to spend three months re­search­ing ter­mi­nal care, grief and be­reave­ment.

Now 72, and re­cov­er­ing from com­pli­ca­tions fol­low­ing a hip op­er­a­tion, the founder and life pres­i­dent of the char­ity has pro­duced a splen­did up­dated com­plete his­tory of the move­ment, that will be on sale at the of­fi­cial 25th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions next month.

Born in Sur­rey, her fa­ther was in the le­gal pro­fes­sion as man­ag­ing clerk to bar­ris­ters, but he gave it up to take the cloth and was or­dained as a parish priest when she was 18.

When he be­came vicar of Wing­ham she had al­ready trained in nurs­ing and af­ter a spell in ma­ter­nity at the Kent and Can­ter­bury hospi­tal she be­came the dis­trict nurse.

It was in 1977, as she drove home from a study day at St Christo­pher’s Hospice in Sy­den­ham that she be­came fired with a pas­sion to start the ser­vice.

Progress was slow at first but quot­ing the words of Dame Cicely Saun­ders, one of the pi­o­neers of hospice work in Bri­tain, she said: “Al­though faith can move moun­tains, it is quicker and more ef­fec­tive if we each pick up a shovel and phys­i­cally help the process.”

That proved a ma­jor mo­ti­va­tion. By the end of 1979, they had £48,000 and a mas­sive ap­peal in 1980 saw them col­lect­ing £20,000 plus a month and able to pur­chase their first hospice site in Can­ter­bury that opened in June 1982.

She said: “I am proud and hum­bled by what has been achieved, but I could not have done it alone with­out the sup­port of those who fol­lowed and trusted me.”

Mrs Robert­son served as chair­man for 22 years and was awarded an OBE.

She added: “I had the dream, the ideas and the vi­sion, but it was a team ef­fort, just as it is now.”

Hospice founder Ann Robert­son then and now

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