St David’s Hospice Care vision becomes lauded reality, as inpatient unit formally opened in Newport

SPEECHES were made, a plaque was unveiled, and amid the formalities at St David’s Hospice Care headquarters in Newport, a hard-earned sense of achievement was palpable.

The official opening of the charity’s £5 million, 15-bed inpatient unit was a celebration of what has been created at its Blackett Avenue, Malpas, base not just since work began on the project in January 2016, but during the past six years.

The unit took in its first patients in June, including those transferred from the former St Anne’s Hospice inpatient unit, less than half a mile away.

The latter was a 10-bed unit run by St David’s Hospice Care since 2013, when it took over services run by St Anne’s.

Its successor unit has boosted by 50 per cent the inpatient beds available to the charity, and has quickly become a flagship project for the wider hospice movement in the UK, attracting interest and visitors from organisations inspired by the vision behind it.

St David’s chief executive Emma Saysell told the Argus in June that “it should be a source of pride that Newport and Gwent can boast a building like this.”

At the opening she spoke of the goal of creating a haven of “peace, tranquillity, and excellence in care” and was fulsome in her praise of the charity’s management team, trustees, and the expert staff who deliver it.

She also acknowledged key roles played by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Newport council, in supporting the charity’s work.

“This is a landmark day for hospice care in Wales,” said Mrs Saysell.

“It marks the opening of the first purpose-built, independent voluntary sector inpatient hospice in Wales this century.

“Our care depends on ongoing support from our local community. We hope they will continue to support us in the future so we can provide the very best hospice and end of life care.”

The Welsh Government invested £3m into the inpatient unit, the remainder coming from other grant-making organisations, including the Big Lottery. Newport council donated the site.

The building’s L-shaped design enables each room to open out onto grassland with views of woodland and distant hills.

All rooms boast a private patio area, onto which beds can be wheeled if the weather is suitable.

A nursing station at the joint of the L-shape has views along each corridor, and the building also includes bathroom facilities for relatives – who are able to stay over – a cafe, a children’s area, a communal sitting room, Y Dawel – a room intended as a peaceful, spiritual space – and an automated pharmacy unit.

Vaughan Gething, cabinet secretary for health, wellbeing and sport, carried out the formal opening of the unit, before shown around and spending time speaking to patients. He was clearly impressed by what he saw.

“The team at St David’s Hospice Care has developed a palliative care model which is universally recognised as an example of first class care,” he said.

“Now that the new building is complete and open, the charity will be able to support more people who need its help at the end of their lives.”

St David’s Hospice Care cared for six patients in its first year, 1979. Now it cares for more than 3,200 patients and families every year, at a cost of more than £7.5m.

Six years ago, the charity was based at Cambrian House in St John’s Road, Maindee, Newport, with work yet to start on its proposed new base at Blackett Avenue.

That had been awarded planning permission in April 2011, just a year after planners dashed hopes for a similar development at Woodland Park in the city’s Beechwood area.

But by July 2012, the Blackett Avenue building was complete, comprising a day hospice – including a chemotherapy outreach centre – children’s support services, and carers and bereavement groups, and providing an under-one-roof base for charity staff, including its hospice-at-home team.

By spring 2015, plans were afoot for a new inpatient unit, to help tackle a shortfall in hospice beds in the Newport area, and to bring the charity’s inpatient and day hospice services onto one site.

Two-and-a-half years on, an aspiration dependant on attracting millions of pounds of funding is a hard-won and hugely impressive reality.