THE Gazette’s ‘Driving Hospice Care’ campaign, to buy a pair of 4x4s for a team of nurses, captured the hearts of hundreds of local people — and after just six weeks the £36,800 fundraising target was smashed. Now the Hospice at Home team, from St John’s Hospice, Lancaster, is able to reach terminally-ill patients in one of two brand new Kia Sportages. ANNA CLARKE spent a day with the team to find out how life has changed since the cars arrived.


‘I think the biggest difference is safety,” says nurse Anne Haygarth, as we drive up to Grasmere to see a patient.

“None of us felt very safe in the old cars.

“For example, last Christmas I was driving back from an appointment in Kendal and it was snowing really heavily, and the windscreen wipers suddenly broke.

“I couldn’t see a thing. I honestly thought: ‘How will I get back?’”

This is just one of the dozens of tales the team has told me about the fleet of old, unreliable vehicles they were solely reliant on before the Kias arrived.

On several occasions they were forced to get out and push, ask patients’ families to help them push, or take circuitous routes to patients’ homes because they couldn’t trust the cars on the motorway.

And the old fleet of vehicles broke down in all weathers and on all terrains. On one occasion, when the electrics went, a nurse was forced to climb out of a window to reach a patient.

“It’s lots of little things that have improved — safety, and also how much time we can save,” explains nurse Suzanne Anderton, who I am also spending the day with.

“We knew the cars would make a difference but I don’t think we’d realised just how much actually.”

One major advantage, she says, is that the nurses are now able to make phone calls to other healthcare professionals on the road.

“It doesn’t sound like a big deal but we couldn’t make phone calls in the old cars because the engines were too loud!” she laughs.

“Now we can make 90 per cent of calls en route to the next patient and it saves us so much time as a result.”

Saving time is key and the team also point out how quickly the cars start, de-ice and de-mist in bad weather.

They also shave valuable minutes off every journey because they now feel confident about taking the cars on the motorway.

“It’s safe to say we we’re nervous about the Cumbrian winter and we all wondered at times whether we’d make it,” continues Anne.

“The new cars have made such a difference because I feel safe all the time. It doesn’t cross my mind that they might let us down.”

This sentiment is echoed by the whole of the 12-strong team, Suzanne tells me.

“Instead of worrying about the cars we can just focus on the patients,” she says. “That’s how it should be.”

The Gazette campaign was set up in September to help the north Lancashire-based Hospice at Home team, which cares for terminally-ill local people who have chosen to die at home.

The plight of the nurses touched the hearts of hundreds of local people and the money poured in. By the end of October the fund had smashed through its target of £18,400 per car, which was a heavily discounted price thanks to Windermere’s Rayrigg Motors.

And the new cars were certainly needed.

On average the nurses, who travel in pairs, visit between six and eight families across South Lakeland, north Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales every day, although they can also be asked to respond to unplanned visits too.

On the day I meet Suzanne and Anne they tell me their day began at 7am with a handover from the night team. They or colleagues will be on hand until 10pm.

They are booked in to see several patients in the South Lakes area, which could involve anything from offering pain relief, symptom control, personal care or psychological support. The nurses will also be a source of much-needed support for patients’ families.

“Our job is a difficult job and we’re going into very emotionally-charged situations,” adds Suzanne, as we return to the hospice.

“We’re visiting very vulnerable people who sometimes are on their own.

“So knowing we’re going into that situation without any extra worries or concerns about the cars is just fantastic.”