There is a lot more to the hospice than a place to die

John Chisnall with senior staff nurse Jenny Wetter, left, and Dr Cathy Higginns, right
John Chisnall with senior staff nurse Jenny Wetter, left, and Dr Cathy Higginns, right

Wigan and Leigh Hospice is one of the borough’s most wonderful institutions caring for thousands of people and their relatives each year. In the first of a daily series of features this week ANDREW NOWELL looks at the in-patient unit at the Kildare Street base.

Modern hospices continuously challenge outdated ideas about the institutions, and nowhere is that more true than on the in-patient unit.

The 14 beds at Wigan and Leigh Hospice’s headquarters in Hindley can be used to provide end-of-life care but also for other purposes such as respite breaks.

One person who recently found out hospices are about a lot more than merely being there in a person’s final weeks is Leigh resident John Chisnall, who spent around eight weeks at WLH.

Prostate cancer sufferer John, 73, came to the hospice’s Kildare Street unit as he was struggling to manage with a care package at home and needed help with pain relief.

He says the hospice, which arranged for him to be transferred to Carrington Court in Hindley, had been a far more pleasant experience than he had initially feared and praised the staff.

John said: “I had mixed feelings. When you think of a hospice you think of people dying but it’s nothing like that.

“It can be respite, giving your family members a break, and it can be help with pain relief and your tablets. The staff make sure you get the right amount of medication, whereas if you’re on your own at home you tend to just stuff yourself with painkillers.

“It has been very good. I was in quite a lot of pain when I arrived because a couple of bones in my spine have collapsed.

“I’ve also got COPD as well as asthma and they’ve been managing that.

“They’ve really looked after me and I’m very pleased I will be maintaining that connection with the hospice at Carrington Court.

“The time has flown here and the staff are so patient. People should open their eyes to what the hospice is because there is some fabulous work done here.”

For patients staying for weeks and even months the hospice’s rooms are made as homely as possible, with John enjoying a shelf full of family photographs and even a large Christmas gnome with switch-on lights in his room.

Unit residents can also take part in all the activities and services going on at the hospice if they feel well enough, including complementary therapies such as massage and Reiki, religious services and everyday tasks such as hairdressing. The nature of a modern hospice can even surprise some of the staff when they arrive, as senior nurse Jenny Wetter, who moved to WLH from a career in hospitals around a year ago, freely admits.

She said: “It’s a lovely approach here, more individualised and patient-centred.

“You also get to know the patients and their families very well, because it can be either short visits or repeated admissions to the in-patient unit. I’ve actually learned a lot from them.

“The care is very much promoting independence and allowing patients to make informed choices.

“For me it’s the little things that stand out, knowing you’ve been there and helped a patient or their relatives in their darkest moments. Sometimes it is just listening to them talking.

“The hospice is also fully integrated so everything is multi-disciplinary, working with other teams. We’ve got extensive community services now so a lot of work goes on facilitating palliative care and looking at potential discharges or new admissions.

“There’s also a lot of education work and training we have to do, on everything from enhanced communications to end-of-life care and management. It’s great because it’s done on site and there’s lots you can put your name down for.

“I enjoy working at Wigan and Leigh Hospice, it’s rewarding when you know what goes on. There’s such a stigma about hospices but it’s not at all doom or gloom, we are just helping people to live.”