The surprising side of hospice care

Morris Dancers at the hospice
Morris Dancers at the hospice

Many people think of hospices purely as places concerned with the ill and dying. But at St Catherine’s Hospice, the emphasis is all about making the most of the time people have left.

Over the years, the hospice has arranged a variety of personal and joint events and activities for their patients. To mark National Hospice Care Week (October 8 to 14) Wayne Stepney, hospitality services manager, took a look back over some special moments at the Crawley-based hospice, which serves the Horsham area.

“I remember taking some miniature bottles of whisky around the wards one Christmas and a patient tried to struggle out of bed to thank me! A few months later, his wife came in and donated a bottle of his favourite tipple and thanked me for putting a smile on his face.

“I also remember a 89 year old man who wanted Roquefort cheese and red wine whilst here on respite care. We managed to sort that out for him.

“Once, a patient’s Jazz band came and played for him in the hospice one night. This was a great social event for all our patients, relatives and staff. We have also held lots of other events such as afternoon tea parties (Wimbledon, Jubilee, Olympics etc), Morris Dancers and Irish folk music. Recently former Olympian Steve Cram came into the hospice to chat to patients and their relatives and everyone had a great time. And we’ve also seen some unusual visitors over the years including lambs, a variety of dogs, a parrot and a pony!

“During the past year we have organised two weddings and a christening, all taking place in the hospice and led by our Spiritual Care Coordinator, the Rev Mike Neville. We also helped to organise a patient’s Stag Night. It’s wonderful to be able to help patients achieve their last wish and to bring some joy to their lives.

“One event which sticks in my mind though, is when we arranged for a patient’s young daughter to have a birthday party in the coffee shop. He’d wanted to see her on her birthday but was too ill to leave the hospice. So we organised the party and lots of his family and friends came along. He was thrilled to have all his family around him and to be able to share in his daughter’s celebrations.

“We try hard to help people to make the most of the time they have left. It’s all about helping people to lead as normal a life as possible whilst they are under our care – letting them join in both family and national celebrations. We always remember our patients are individuals with families, interests and dreams and caring for someone means looking after this side of their lives too – not just their illness.”

St Catherine’s Hospice provides end of life care, free of charge, to adults of any age across Crawley, Horsham, Mid Sussex and East Surrey. They care for patients in the hospice’s 18 bed ward and nearly 80 per cent of their 1,200 patients receive nursing care and advice in their own home. Support is also extended to patients’ families, friends and carers by providing bereavement counselling and carer support. The services St Catherine’s Hospice provides cost over £8 million per year, £5 million of which must be raised through voluntary donations. This equates to over £13,000 each and every day! If you would like to find out more or make a donation, visit

Pictured here, Morris Dancers at the hospice.