THE Westmorland Gazette is today launching a campaign to ensure the future of a service for terminally-ill local people.

The ‘Driving Hospice Care’ appeal is calling on readers to help buy new vehicles for the nurses who spend their days supporting people who have chosen to die at home.

More than £36,000 is needed to buy two 4x4s for the ‘Hospice at Home’ team which battles all weathers and terrains to reach patients in the final stages of life.

“The Hospice at Home team cover thousands of miles per year in a fleet of ageing cars,” said Sue McGraw, chief executive at St John’s Hospice, which runs the service.

“We really need the support of Westmorland Gazette readers to replace our vehicles and keep our valuable care on the road.

“We know that the way someone dies lives on in the minds of those they leave behind. If we don’t keep the Hospice at Home team on the road, more people will be admitted to hospital and more families will live with the feeling that they were not able to support their loved ones at home, which is what we know most people prefer.”

The 12-strong group make around 5,000 home visits a year to patients across South Lakeland, north Lancashire and north Yorkshire who have opted to die at home.

They must reach patients in the most rural locations in their fleet of old, unreliable cars – several of which have broken down in recent months.

“The main problem with the current fleet is that they’re old,” said Ms McGraw.

“They are not vehicles that will cope well with the Cumbrian winter and not replacing them soon will mean we may not be able to get to every patient, partic-ularly those who live in more rural, isolated places.

“We would never say that the service wouldn’t continue but it may be severely limited if we don’t have new vehicles.”

The Hospice at Home team was launched nine years ago by nurse Sue Hughes, oper-ating in conjunction with district nurses and GPs.

The nurses work 365 days a year between 7am and 10pm, giving both medical and psychological support to patients and their families.

They operate under the banner of St John’s Hospice, which relies on £2.5 million in donations from the com-munity every year.

The nurses’ fleet of vehicles has been donated almost entirely by generous locals – but the ‘best’ of the cars is now 12-years-old and some are close to being ‘decommissioned’.

Breakdowns and mechan-ical failures are a fact of life for the selfless team.

“We just cover such a vast area, a lot of which is rural,” said nurse Paula Hall.

“We’ve had to ask farmers to push the cars for us in the past when they’ve conked out. We just need to know we’re travelling in safe, reliable cars.”

The Gazette would now like to provide the team with a pair of Kia Sportages which would be supplied at a special reduced rate of £18,400 each by Winder-mere’s Rayrigg Motors.

Anything raised in addition to the £36,800 total will be given to the hospice for fuel.

Andrew Thomas, content editor of the Gazette, said: “Hospice at Home nurses do an amazing job in our community but their ageing vehicles mean the service could be limited in the future.

“We’re delighted to be launching this campaign but we cannot do it without the support of our readers.

“We need the support of the community if we are to keep these nurses on the road.”


To donate to the Westmorland Gazette’s Driving Hospice Care campaign send cheques made payable to Driving Hospice Care to Anna Clarke, The Westmorland Gazette, 1 Wainwright’s Yard, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4DP.

Cheques should be marked on the back ‘Driving Hospice Care’.

Please include your name, full postal address, telephone number and email address.