KATE OSBORNE: Why I will keep up the fight so that palliative care is brought back to Jarrow

Like thousands of us in this area, I want palliative care in Jarrow restored on the site of the former St. Clare’s Hospice.
Kay Smith and campaigners at the former St Clare's Hospice in Jarrow.Kay Smith and campaigners at the former St Clare's Hospice in Jarrow.
Kay Smith and campaigners at the former St Clare's Hospice in Jarrow.

During my 2019 election campaign and now as MP for the Jarrow constituency I quickly realised just how much St. Clare’s was valued and the love people had for it.

St. Clare’s Hospice’s closure almost two years ago was a sad moment for so many people across our community.

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From the staff who lost the jobs they loved, to the many supporters of the hospice over the past 30 years, St. Clare’s provided a vital service, providing end of life care to some of the most vulnerable patients in South Tyneside and beyond.

The Primrose Terrace building itself was purpose built, and provided a peaceful, tranquil setting with beautiful views from each room.

South Tyneside has not had an end-of-life facility for two years and I feel that there is no reason why with the correct plan in place a new palliative care service under different management could not, again, be provided at Primrose Hill, just as it is in Sunderland at St Benedict’s and St. Oswald’s in Newcastle.

Campaigner Kay Smith and her wonderful team of volunteers have collected an amazing 13,500 signatures on a petition in support of restoring palliative care to the Jarrow site. This shows the strong level of public support to bring Palliative care back to Primrose Hill.

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There is much speculation that a new model for end of life care will be based within the vicinity of South Tyneside District Hospital at Haven Court.

Haven Court is situated at the main entrance to South Tyneside District Hospital and faces a busy main road. Does it provide the required peace and tranquillity that a hospice should offer?

Location aside, if the CCG’s final proposals include an end of life care model at Haven Court, then I have concerns that it will fall well short of meeting the needs of the people of South Tyneside.

Many households don't have cars and taxis are expensive for people with low incomes.

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South Tyneside has a low car ownership. Travelling by public transport to St. Benedict’s and St. Oswald’s is also difficult and costly for many people who live in the Jarrow constituency.

For struggling families, for pensioners, and for people with disabilities, travelling to and from hospitals and hospices further afield adds further stress at a very difficult time in their lives.

Key services have already been downgraded at South Tyneside District Hospital, and it’s unclear what the future will hold.

Children’s A&E services have closed, between the hours of 10pm and 8am, resulting in thousands of poorly children now having to travel to Sunderland.

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Services such as stroke care and maternity have been moved to Sunderland, the Special Care Baby Unit has been closed, leaving only a midwife led unit.

Five years ago, the Jarrow walk-in centre – used by 27,000 people – was inexplicably closed, despite a huge public campaign to keep it open.

It’s crucial that any future Palliative End of Life care must have an in-patient provision to ensure those who need this type of service can access it.

This, I feel, should be delivered in a peaceful, homely environment that was previously delivered by St. Clare’s, and not in a hospital ward.

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I’ve raised this matter in Parliament and early last month I wrote to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to request a meeting and I am yet to receive a response. I’ve also been in contact with officials from the South Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group. I was delighted to accept Kay Smith’s invitation to speak at a rally outside of the Primrose Hill building a couple of weeks ago and at the end of business this Tuesday I will present the 13,500-named Petition to Parliament.

Some people want to die at home and deserve the choice to do so with expert medical support.

But others need somewhere to go and that is the Primrose Hill site and we will keep up the fight so that Palliative care is brought back to Jarrow.