Newport: St David’s Hospice Care officially opens

Terminally-ill patients in Newport no longer have to travel to Pontypool to access palliative day care services since the opening of a new day hospice.

First Minister Carwyn Jones will officially open St David’s Hospice Care’s £2.9m facility in Malpas.

The centre provides a mix of health services, support and relaxation.

St David’s Hospice Care offers a chemotherapy clinic, children’s support services, bereavement and carers’ groups and complementary therapies.

It will cater for about 1,500 patients every year.

The charity used to run day services from its base in Cambrian House until around 2001.

St David’s chief executive Emma Saysell told BBC Wales: “It wasn’t appropriate to use the building any more as it wasn’t fit for purpose, so patients were transported to Pontypool.

“I’ve had a plan now for about five years to open a purpose-built day hospice [in Newport] instead.

“Patients can have a real range from quite specialist medical care right the way through to social care and interaction with people in the same situation.

“We make each plan of care individual to every person.

“We also have a unique project for Wales where we look after children of parents who are dying of cancer or other life-limiting diseases.”

Ms Saysell said the Children in Need-funded project offered counselling and advice to children before and after their parents die.

St David’s is a community-based hospice which takes hospice services to patients’ homes rather than on an in-patient model, and Ms Saysell hopes the Newport centre will work in complement with their home-based care.

“We look after 1,000 patients in their own homes, which is a unique concept, as people are often happier having services in the comfort of their own home.

“However they can come to the centre for respite care and to give their carers a break.”

She added: “It’s also very important to us that, whilst being designed to offer clinical treatments, it’s not always about medicine and it doesn’t have to feel too clinical.

“End-of-life patients and their families are facing all kinds of difficulties, and our new building will help them to deal with these by offering a range of services and treatments such as complementary therapies, carers’ groups and support services.”

St David’s will also offer training for district nurses and care home staff who look after terminally-ill patients.

The service operates across Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly and south Powys. It has three day hospices in Pontypool, Brecon and Ystrad Mynach and two resource centres in Caldicot and Monmouth.

The Newport hospice opened its doors to users in June.

Case Study

When Vanessa Dunlop was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumour, a rare form of cancer she was told was incurable, she was so frightened by the thought that she didn’t want to get involved with anything that reflected her illness.

She said: “My children were two-and-a-half and five and my aim was to see them grow up and get through school. They’re now 17 and 15. Although I still have lesions on my liver, so the cancer has spread, I have monthly injections to help keep it in check.”

However, about three years ago, she was invited to take part in a creative living course at St David’s in Pontypool, and realised the power of sharing with people who were in a similar situation.

“It was for two or three months once a fortnight. We did lots of arts and crafts and that. Prior to it, I though, ‘I don’t know, it’s not really for me’, but something told me to go along. It’s a totally amazing group. I have made friends that will be with me for a lifetime.”

She added: “We can chat about our conditions but we don’t just spend our time talking about cancer. We spend 99% of our time laughing.”

Mrs Dunlop, from Chepstow said the new centre in Newport is closer for her and offers a place to meet her hospice friends in a relaxing setting.

“If someone had told me 10 years ago I’d pick going to a hospice over going shopping I’d never have believed them.”