St Barnabas House and Chestnut Tree House

Published by Simon Webber on 1 January 2019

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The 22 January is an important date in the diary for Chestnut Tree House. It is the day where government funding runs out, leaving the hospice having to find almost £4m to continue to fund its vital support to children with life-shortening illnesses and their families for the rest of the year.

And when you add the £6.5m needed to fund St Barnabas House, the charity’s adult hospice, it is hard not to be in awe of the work its 500 staff and 1,000 plus volunteers.

Kreston Reeves met with Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees, and Janet Parsons, Head of Communications, to learn more.

St Barnabas House in Worthing, West Sussex, is one of the earliest hospices in the UK established in 1973. Historically specialising in the care of cancer patients, it now cares for a large number of individuals with heart, renal, respiratory and liver failure. It has over its 45 years supported more than 40,000 individuals and, just as importantly, their families.

“Every day we treat 115 people and every year we welcome 1,100 new patients,” says Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees. “It costs £6.5m a year to run our services, and just 21% is from statutory funding.

“An additional £3.9m is needed to run Chestnut Tree House, and just 6% of that comes from government. It is no understatement, but our fundraising activity is critical.”

The two hospices employ some 500 people to provide the round the clock and community-based care that Chestnut Tree House and St Barnabas House is known and respected for. An army of over 1,000 volunteers – including fundraisers, drivers, gardeners – make up the rest of the team.

Both hospices provide respite care, overnight and daycare and an increasing amount of care and support in families’ own homes. Specialist teams also provide ongoing counselling and support for families for as long as it is needed.

“It is interesting to know that the word palliative has in its roots in the Latin word palliat, or cloak,” says Janet Parsons, Head of Communications, “and that really captures our approach – we cloak our patients and their families in the support they need, whether that is medical, emotional or spiritual. It really does put us at the heart of the community here in Sussex.”

Whilst St Barnabas House draws its patients from a relatively small geographic area, Chestnut Tree House cares for children and their families across East and West Sussex and into Hampshire. And that does present a number of challenges.

“Support at home is very popular, particularly for families of children with life-limiting illnesses,” says Patricia. “That means our teams are working across a large area, working closely with local NHS services and GPs. It requires a lot of coordination and, of course, a lot of travel for our nurses and care support workers.

“And it is the generosity and support of our community and the hard work of our fundraisers and volunteers that make all of this possible.”

“Each hospice has its own fundraising programme, but share resources,” explains Janet. “The Chestnut Tree House Snowman Spectacular Ball in Brighton, for example, is one of the highlights, as is the 300 plus runners that took part in the Brighton Marathon last year for Chestnut Tree House. Our own Littlehampton 10k Run attracted over 1,000 runners with the same number joining the annual Night to Remember Midnight Walk. We are well supported raising a lot of money.

“But not all support is through our fundraising events. We have a lot of people who are very generous with their time. For example, both hospices are surrounded by beautiful gardens and there is a dedicated team that keep them that way. We also have people that also provide goods, services and training free of charge and it all helps.”

Each year, St Barnabas holds services of remembrance at the Worthing Assembly Rooms, with over 1,400 people joining staff and volunteers to celebrate the lives of friends and loved ones.

Patricia Woolgar has only recently taken up the role as chair of the trustees for the charity following a career as a private client solicitor in the law firm Thomas Eggar (now Irwin Mitchell). Her professional life has made her all too aware of the challenges the hospices face.

“We have been lucky in that we haven’t struggled to find trustees to support the charity,” she says, “but we continue to look and explore the skills we need from them.

“We are also a large employer locally and we do spend a lot of time making sure we have the best people possible. Training forms a large part of that. We do keep a close eye on the politics surrounding our departure from Europe, but we don’t think it will cause us any particular problems.”

The regulatory environment in which St Barnabas House and Chestnut Tree House operate is increasingly complex and time-consuming.

“We have invested in the best systems possible to ensure that staff and patients are safe and well cared for,” explains Patricia. “We collaborate closely with our NHS and GP colleagues, and with other local hospices. We are on top and ahead of the curve on regulation.”

St Barnabas House and Chestnut Tree House have been working closely with Kreston Reeves for two years. The firm provides the charity with a wide and full range of support, working closely with its finance team and with its trustees. The Kreston Reeves team is led by partners Mark Spofforth and Simon Webber.

“The work Mark and his team provide is invaluable,” says Patricia. “They step above the every-day support we need and bring real added value. They have led specialist training for our trustees and provide the insight and advice on the latest Charity Commission guidance. Just as we become part of our patients’ lives, Kreston Reeves has become part of our team.”

The next five years will bring more patients into contact with St Barnabas House and Chestnut Tree House and the charity is already laying down plans.

“We will be looking to expand our hospice at home service,” says Janet, “and introducing ‘living well’ support to improve the quality of life for our patients and to give them more time with their own families.

“We are also preparing to refurbish Chestnut Tree House to enlarge and improve the space we can give to teenagers, who quite naturally want greater independence. We are always looking to the future.”

There are lots of ways you can get involved with your local hospices from making a donation, taking part in one of the hospices’ events or volunteering to visit the charity’s shops, playing the lottery or leaving a gift in your will.

"The work Mark and his team provide is invaluable. They step above the every-day support we need and bring real added value. They have led specialist training for our trustees and provide the insight and advice on the latest Charity Commission guidance. Just as we become part of our patients’ lives, Kreston Reeves has become part of our team."

Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees

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