Borders General Hospital earmarked for first hospice

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A CASH bequest from a nurse will be used to provide a death-with-dignity hospice within the confines of the Borders General Hospital.

Solicitors for Margaret Kerr of West Linton confirmed to TheSouthern in August 2009 that the 83-year-old had left in excess of £500,000 to support the creation of a hospice in the Borders.

After initially displaying a guarded response to the bequest, NHS Borders later embraced it with enthusiasm and talks were held with the Edinburgh-based solicitors and experts in palliative care.

And this week local medical director Dr Ross Cameron confirmed a public fundraising appeal to boost the money available from the Margaret Kerr Charitable Trust would be launched later this year – probably in September.

And Dr Cameron confirmed that expert advice pointed to the adaption and extension of a ward at the BGH for an enhanced-type hospice as the best way forward.

Palliative care for the dying – mostly but not exclusively cancer patients – is provided both at home and in hospital.

But Dr Cameron confessed that the current hospital arrangements, where palliative patients are accommodated in wards alongside patients being treated for non-terminal illnesses, is wrong.

He admitted: “It is far from ideal in terms of the environment required by the skilled multi-disciplinary palliative care team to deliver appropriate, quality care and it is not the setting in which patients and families should receive this care.

“Borders is the only mainland health board area in Scotland which does not have a dedicated specialist in-patient facility and this project gives us the exciting opportunity of improving the care that we offer. It will transform the environment in which this specialist care is delivered.”

The plan is to create eight en-suite patient rooms, clinical areas, day rooms and accommodation for relatives. Relaxing garden areas will also be provided and there will be a separate entrance from the main hospital.

Dr Cameron said the planned unit – a hospice within a hospital – was the preferred choice of specialists clinicians in palliative care.

He stressed: “The new unit will have all the skills, experience and atmosphere of a modern hospice unit – but it will have the added benefits of immediate access to the whole range of specialist services within the acute hospital.

“It will be a key component part of the Borders-wide palliative care provision which strives to ensure that every patient receives high quality, safe care at each stage of their illness and which acknowledges the importance of patient and family choice.”

National and local organisations are being approached to pledge financial support in advance of the public appeal being launched. Callum’s Trust – set up in memory of Callum Finney of Galashiels who died from cancer aged 35 – is already raising cash to support the running of the hospice.

When the bequest was confirmed Callum’s widow Audrey told us: “This is a huge opportunity to move forward and start this much-needed and exciting development.”

Miss Kerr was the daughter of the Reverend Robert and Mrs Elizabeth Kerr of Smailholm.