Published Tuesday 13th December 2022

A widely-respected doctor bids farewell to St Michael’s Hospice this Christmas following a 20-year association with the charity.

Dr Clare Scotcher is retiring from her Specialist Doctor role at the Bartestree-based Hospice, having joined whilst still in General Practice in Hereford back in 2003. But instead of putting her feet up, she will instantly turn from Hospice Doctor to Hospice fundraiser as she flies out to eastern Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The adventure will see her raise much-needed funds for St Michael’s which relies on its supporters to raise the majority of its annual £8.7 million running costs. Clare will also be collecting for Muheza Hospice – the sister Hospice of St Michael’s which is based in a remote part of northern Tanzania. 

Once Clare’s legendary climb to Africa’s highest peak is complete, she will then spend time in Muheza, discovering what life is like for those being cared for in one of East Africa’s few palliative care facilities.

“The link between St Michael’s Hospice and Muheza Hospice has always been important to me,” said Clare. “It was established 20 years ago to try and plant ‘a little bit of St Michael’s’ in Africa. It’s a link which has enabled staff from both Hospices to visit and learn from each other. So, I’m really looking forward to returning, and climbing Kilimanjaro beforehand of course.”

Clare will leave St Michael’s almost exactly one year since her former colleague, the Hospice’s Medical Director Dr Tony Blower, retired.

“I have loved working as a Doctor at St Michael’s,” she said. 

“The work has been continuously varied and challenging, but has also been hugely rewarding. Having grown up in Hereford, I have now cared for many people known to me or my family and friends, and this has added an extra layer of depth and complexity but ultimately it has been a great privilege. 

“I hope I have made a difference to all the people I have cared for. The world is changing in so many ways, but I have confidence that the team at St Michael’s will continue to provide careful, skilled, complex and compassionate care to those approaching the end of their lives.”

Dr Scotcher’s 20-year association with St Michael’s began in Day Hospice before she joined the Hospice’s IPU team. In the years since, she has seen many changes and faced growing challenges. 

“One of the significant changes to St Michael’s has been the addition of the new Inpatient Unit which provides more room and privacy for inpatients, and extra updated facilities for day patients. Covid was a challenging time but I’m very proud of the decisions taken here during those difficult months and years.” It was these decisions which resulted in St Michael’s staying open to inpatients throughout the pandemic. 

“We agonised over the restrictions we had to impose, needing to balance safety issues for patients and staff with the crucial importance of allowing loved ones to visit,” she added. “Since the retirement of Dr Blower, I have needed to increase my clinical and educational responsibility, as well as taking on increased management work. I could not have managed this extra responsibility and workload without the support of the Hospice medical team and the wider MDT.”

Clare’s positive impact has been keenly felt at St Michael’s where she has helped increase the Hospice’s commitment to the training and education of doctors. 

“Palliative medicine is a relatively young speciality so we’ve always wanted to spread the knowledge and skills as wide as possible throughout the profession. We have trained Palliative Medicine registrars for many years, with each placement lasting 12 months, and we have recently started to train GP registrars too. We also train Foundation Doctors on a rolling basis, with each young doctor spending four months at the Hospice.” 

She said St Michael’s also provides medical student placements as well as educational visits from doctors of any speciality or seniority.  But it’s not just St Michael’s which holds a special place in her heart.

In travelling to Tanzania next month, Clare will be returning to a region she knows well.  

As a young child she lived in East Africa. Then later, as a 19-year-old, she spent several months working at Muheza Hospital before starting medical school. Many years later, Clare took her own family back to Muheza as part of a link programme between Hereford County Hospital and Muheza Hospital, before.

She says the inspiration for establishing the African hospice was the wonderful work that was being done back home at St Michael’s. 

“The need for palliative care was just as great in Tanzania as in the UK but years ago, there was very little provision for those with terminal illnesses.

“Over those twenty years, both Hospices have provided much-needed palliative care to thousands of patients, and both need charitable funding in order to continue this work.”

To sponsor Clare for her trip up Kilimanjaro, with funds split between St Michael’s Hospice and Muheza Hospice, just click here