Published Monday 12th December 2016

The Bishop of Hereford, the Right Reverend Richard Frith, recently visited St Michael’s where he was given a tour of the Hospice buildings.

Following the visit he wrote about us in his ‘Talking Point’ column in the Hereford Times.

Here’s his column in full.

“St Michael’s Hospice is a well known, much appreciated part of the community. I was recently privileged to visit there and to meet staff, volunteers and patients. And I was very impressed.

The Hospice hardly needs promoting as it has a deservedly high reputation, but I do want to reflect on my visit to St Michael’s and on hospices in general.

Although the word “hospice” goes back many centuries, the hospice movement as such in the UK goes back to 1967 and the pioneering work of Dame Cicely Saunders. She founded St Christopher’s Hospice in London, with a commitment to a combination of science, care and sharing of experience.

In the words of the history of St Christopher’s, “a holistic approach, caring for a patient’s physical, spiritual and psychological wellbeing, marked a new beginning, not only for the care of the dying but for the practice of medicine as a whole”.

As a result, the way people are treated when faced with a life-limiting illness has been changed forever. The principles underlying hospices, and which I saw being lived out at St Michael’s, are widely applicable beyond the confines of the hospice itself.

First, there is the care for each individual patient as a unique person. There is much emphasis on the particular needs of each person, involving not only their medical condition, but also their family circumstances, personalities, and their likes and dislikes. Attention to detail can make all the difference.

Secondly, there is what the hospice says to us, implicitly and explicitly, about our own mortality. Clearly there is much sadness around death and the loss of loved ones.

Nobody is trying to deny that.

But the hospice also has a great sense of realism and hope. The hospice movement is rooted in Christian faith, but is absolutely for those of all faiths and none.

I am encouraged too by the development of Gravetalk, gatherings arranged by churches where people can talk about death, dying and funerals.
Perhaps it sounds disturbingly macabre, but the conversations are in fact encouraging, honest and helpful to people of all ages.

It was always said that the three unmentionable subjects in polite company were politics, sex and death. There is now certainly plenty of talk about the first two – I’m encouraged that Gravetalk may be catching up.”