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St Helena Hospice helps light up the lives of patients and families this Christmas

Staff and volunteers at St Helena Hospice work throughout the festive period to help patients make extra special memories with their loved ones.

The Hospice in Highwoods, Colchester, remains open over Christmas, and SinglePoint continues providing support day and night throughout. Here are just some of the staff and volunteers working across the Hospice and Hospice in the Home this Christmas…

Hospice in the home

For many people supported by St Helena Hospice, this may be their last Christmas and many are supported by the Hospice in the Home team to remain comfortable in their own environment, surrounded by people they love in a familiar place. 

Clinical nurse specialist Di Turner has seen more than 30 St Helena Hospice Christmases. Di said: 

“When I go into somebody's house around the Christmas period, I briefly feel like I’m part of that family’s experience. I think we're privileged because we are welcomed inside their home and they let us help a little bit. 

“Christmas needs to still be as pleasant an experience for people as it can be. It can't be exactly the same, but it's not all doom and gloom even though someone may be deteriorating. It may be a different Christmas for some families, but some positive memories can still be made together.

“I can't remove the cause of why they've been referred to the Hospice, but I can try to make life a little bit more meaningful and a bit more comfortable for them. I remind them SinglePoint will be on the end of the phone day and night if they need anything over the next few days.”

St Helena Hospice’s SinglePoint phoneline is available 24/7 for patients, families and carers to call for help and advice throughout the festive period. For patients and families, they have peace of mind knowing that a friendly voice is on the end of the phone when they need advice or support or help in a crisis.

Fran Etherton, SinglePoint senior staff nurse, said:

“This year I will be working the Christmas night shift after spending the day with my family. Part of what makes my job so special, is being able to support our patients and their families during the most difficult of times.

“If you need support or advice, we are here as usual day and night throughout Christmas and New Year. Please don’t worry about calling, you are not disturbing our Christmas; we are on shift ready for people who need hospice support. It is best to sort out symptoms before they escalate, so you can spend the time with your loved ones feeling more comfortable.”

St Helena’s virtual ward continues to make visits to patients thought to be in their last weeks of life, to help with all hygiene needs such as washing and mouth care, as well as providing support to the family, in the comfort of their own homes.

Maddie Tucker, virtual ward healthcare assistant, said:

“I love to work over the Christmas holidays as it is a hard time for patients and their families but being able to go in and make a difference on a hard day is something I will always keep close and remember.”

Image: Di Turner with patient

Clinical nurse specialist Di Turner with Rick Hanley

Image: nurse Fran in SinglePoint

Fran Etherton, SinglePoint senior staff nurse

Angela Gaught is also a healthcare assistant on virtual ward and is on night shift with SinglePoint on Christmas Eve, added:  

“Even though Christmas is a time for celebrating, it is not always the case when someone’s loved one is dying or it’s someone's last Christmas. Being just a phone call away when they call SinglePoint on Christmas Eve night, a voice on the other end of the phone for reassurance or to go out and support them, and seeing their face light up as you bring a little joy and comfort, means the world to me and hopefully to them too.”


Jackie Arnold will be volunteering as a ward helper on Christmas Day: 

“It’s always wonderful being part of the St Helena family, but especially so during the Christmas period.

“Amazing wafts are coming from the kitchen, as the chefs prepare delicious traditional homemade meals and treats, and all the staff are busy creating a familiar, comfortable and festive environment where patients and their families feel relaxed and able to enjoy Christmas away from home.

“It’s a really good feeling being together and sharing this day with other families; doing my little bit to help our patients enjoy the celebrations as much as possible.  I have worked on Christmas Day a few times and honestly, I don’t think I have been anywhere else where the spirit of Christmas is more evident.”

Deputy sister Claire Burton will be joining Jackie at the Hospice on Christmas Day. Claire said: 

“Christmas Day at the Hospice will be a special day for our staff and patients. Sadly, for some patients it may be their last Christmas, so the staff will make this a happy day for patients and their families. 

“As a deputy sister working Christmas Day I am lucky to share this experience with my patients and my family will know I’m doing my best to make someone else’s Christmas a memorable day. At the end of the day, I can celebrate with my family when I get home.”

At the Hospice in Colchester, staff and volunteers try to make the atmosphere as homely as possible for patients who are admitted. This year the domestic team decorated the real trees, which were donated by Fred Smith Christmas Trees, adding a little extra sparkle around the building. 

Lorraine Cheal, domestic supervisor, said: 

“It's my 60th birthday on Christmas Day but I can celebrate at home later. We have been decorating the Hospice and doing what we can do to make patients and their visitors feel comfortable and enjoy the season as best they can.”

Festive music plays along the corridor and throughout December various musicians and choirs have played for patients and their visitors. 

Karen Fryett, clinical support worker, said: 

“We make it Christmassy at the Hospice for patients and families. There is wine and mince pies and we make it special. We give presents out Christmas Day. I love it. It’s nice we can do that for patients on what may be their last Christmas; we’ve got to make it as special as we can. It means everything to me to help people make their memories, but we don't just do it at Christmas, we do it all year round. I make every day as special for people as I can.”

This will be nurse Abbie Sim’s first Christmas at the Hospice, and she is looking forward to making a difference on her Boxing Day night shift. Abbie said:

“It's going to be nice to help make memories for families and the patients, I think that will mean a lot to them. 

“The decorations around the Hospice make it feel like Christmas make it feel more like you want to celebrate and not feel secluded away. Christmas can be a very lonely time, especially when you're away from your home or family, but at the Hospice, seeing the decorations and being able to have your family and pets here, it makes you feel more relaxed and want to celebrate together around this time.”

For people missing a loved one at Christmas, bereavement counsellor Kaye Riley, understands this time of year can be difficult: 

“Christmas is a very difficult time when someone very close to you has died. Try to manage grief around the Christmas period by putting yourself first; do what’s best for you to help you cope, don’t worry about what others might do or think.

“If you would like to forget Christmas altogether, that’s ok. If you want to celebrate it, that’s ok too, you can feel happy when you are bereaved. Give yourself time to grieve and be open and honest with your family and friends.”

For information about any St Helena Hospice service and to refer yourself or a loved one for support, visit or call 01206 890 360.


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