Reflections on 35 years of care by Dr Richard Miller

As a medical student, I spent six months helping to care for people with advanced life-limiting conditions, such as leukaemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Being so involved with patients and their families left a lasting impression on me. 

Subsequently, I went into general practice in Hereford and soon became aware of my limitations when caring for people at the end of their lives. I became interested in the holistic approach to end of life care provided by the hospice movement.

I spent time in several hospices. Each one welcomed me with that special atmosphere of loving care that is so familiar to all who have visited St Michael’s. I soon became convinced that Herefordshire needed a hospice of its own.

The catalyst for St Michael’s came when I met Freda Pearce 40 years ago in July 1979. She and her ladies’ committee had already raised a remarkable £90,000 for a body scanner in Cheltenham.

Together we shared the ambition to establish a hospice in Herefordshire. A new committee was formed and set about the daunting task of planning and raising funds. In spite of the obstacles, the faith of the committee never wavered from creating a fully equipped hospice.

One late summer’s day architect Nigel Dees, quantity surveyor Brian Adams and I met the sisters at Bartestree Convent. We ended the afternoon admiring the fantastic view and instinctively knew we had found the perfect location.

In spite of a phenomenal local response, we were yet to reach the target of £750,000. However, using his charm and political skills, Dr Jeff Kramer arranged an interest-free loan from the Regional Health Authority. Also, at the last minute, we received a donation for £50,000 from the King of Saudi Arabia. Building work proceeded on schedule, and St Michael’s opened its doors to patients on 31st October 1984.

Freda never lived to see the difference St Michael’s made to people’s lives. However, she would have been overwhelmed by how her inspiration helped establish one of the most highly regarded hospices in the world.

The positive impact the Hospice has had on the community, and the support it receives, is a tribute to everyone involved. St Michael’s has helped raise the standard of care locally, nationally and internationally through sharing its expertise.

I’m immensely proud of the care St Michael’s continues to provide and grateful to all who give their time and support to making our Hospice a place like no other. Being involved with St Michael’s has been an enormous privilege and proved to be a real blessing in my life; my faith in human nature soars every time I visit.