Dispelling the Myths by Rachel McMillan

Our Chief Executive, Rachel McMillan shares her thoughts on hospices, helping to dispel the myths and challenges that we face.

By Rachel McMillan on May 10, 2021

“When you think of things people are scared, wary or unsure of, lots of pictures spring to mind.  Spiders, snakes, heights…But, hospices probably aren’t top of the list. 

“However, one of the biggest challenges we face is that there are lots of preconceptions about what St Ann’s might be like, which means that many patients, potential patients, carers, or even health care professionals can be unsure or wary about what hospice care means. 

“Many presume it will be a dark, sad place.  Of course, we have very sad days at St Ann’s, but what many people comment when they visit the hospice is that it is full of joy, laughter and celebrations of life.   

“That’s no surprise, I guess, when you realise that our aim is always to make sure that our patients are supported to live the very best quality of life they can, whatever stage of their illness they’re at.  Whatever their wishes or aims might be for their day, or for their time at St Ann’s, our teams across the hospice work together to support them to achieve it.   

“Whether that’s sitting up in bed, wearing their clothes instead of pyjamas when visitors come to see them, or becoming more mobile so they can go home sooner than anticipated, everyone’s goals are different, but I’m really proud that the teams always listen to people and support them as much as possible to achieve positive outcomes. 

“Another myth we often hear is that hospices are only for people with cancer, and that we only support people at the very end of life.  Again, this is obviously a huge part of what we do here, and we work with lots of patients with various cancer diagnoses, some early in their treatment or to help manage symptoms, whilst others are supported at the end of their life. 

“But, we also support people with a range of other life-limiting illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease, or organ failure.  Many of our patients go home again, and some services, such as our lymphoedema offering, see patients for many, many years and enable them to have a much better quality of life too. 

“The myths around hospice care aren’t just about the building or the services we provide either.  I was talking to a patient recently who commented that we’re not like other parts of the NHS, which really struck me.  It’s another common misconception that we’re part of the NHS, but we’re actually an independent charity.  We work closely with colleagues from across the NHS of course and are commissioned to run many of our services.  We also collaborate on projects, and ensure joined up, holistic care for the people who come to St Ann’sbut, despite what many people might think, we are an independent, complex organisation in our own right.   

“As a result, to keep our services going we need to fundraise around £20,000 a day.  It’s a huge undertaking, but one that our local community really supports us with.  We’re so very grateful for everyone who thinks of the hospice, whether by making a donation, taking part in an event, joining our lottery, leaving a legacy, or visiting our shops. The support we receive really does mean we can continue to keep our doors open for those who need us most. 

“We know that we’re not going to change perceptions of hospice care overnight.  Many are ideas that have been around for many generations. 

“But, if by reading this blog, or seeing stories we share on social media or in the press, just one or two people who might benefit from our care can do so, then I’d be really pleased to have reached them.  Breaking down barriers, showing that we’re here to support so many people locally, will hopefully help do just that. 

“We’d love to reach as many people as possible to help dispel some of those myths.  Please do help us spread the word as much as you can.  It could make a huge difference to someone’s life.”  

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