Talk to almost anyone and you will find they either know of a relative or acquaintance who has received care from a hospice, or are aware of their local hospice and may well have supported it or be a volunteer.
Hospices are very much part of the community. As they receive around only 18 percent of their funding centrally from Government, they are very much supported by the community with charitable donations and volunteers. This provides them with independence but also challenges.
Hospices not only provide care and support for the patient but also for the carers and family. The aftercare for those who have been bereaved is most appreciated as they come to terms with the loss and big changes in their lives.
Last week Margaret Whitehead, Chairman of our Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee, and I met with the Chief Executives of four local hospices; St Barnabas, St Catherine's, St Wilfrid’s and St Peter and St James, which sits just outside West Sussex in North Chailey.
It was a very thought provoking meeting as we talked about end of life care and the needs of carers. Interestingly many people believe that hospices only care for cancer patients. Whilst the majority of patients may have cancer, many other conditions are also cared for such as Motor Neurone Disease and dementia.
The majority of us would prefer to spend our last days at home. However, with complex health conditions, family members, who are often the carers as well, need extra help. The hospices have teams to provide support and care in the home to meet this growing demand.
We are also very lucky to have charities like Macmillan and Sue Ryder, who provide support and care for terminally ill residents.
With a growing elderly population and an increasing number of people living with dementia, the hospices have a really important role to play now and in the future.
As I mentioned, each hospice has to raise funds locally. This week is Small Charity Week and there is a useful website www.localgiving.com where you can enter your postcode and a list of local charities come up. This is a terrific way to support small local charities that do really good work in the local community, and very often on a tight budget. They do not have the resources of the big well-known charities to pay for advertising and large fundraising campaigns.
I am reminded of the old saying ‘charity begins at home’, so please do try and support your local charities who provide such important local help.