by Helen Tomlin, asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell

The modern hospice movement was founded by Dame Cicely Saunders in 1967, with the opening of St Christopher’s Hospice in London. 

Prior to the founding of the modern hospice movement, where curative treatment was no longer possible, patients and their families were often told that there was nothing further to be done, and sent home to die, often with inadequate support and services. 

Dame Cicely refused to accept that, and worked to change the way dying patients were viewed by medical professionals; not as a medical ‘failure’ but as a person to be cared for, combining excellent medical and nursing care with holistic support that met the practical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the person and their family, extending into bereavement services for the family after the time of death.

Hospices reliant on fundraising

The hospice movement today continues that proud tradition of pioneering research into palliative care, and supporting the dying person and their family to ensure all their needs are met. There are now more than 220 hospices across the United Kingdom.

Access to a hospice is completely free to patients and their families, but the care provided by the hospice comes at the cost of millions of pounds per year. 

Many hospices are independent local charities, and only receive a small financial contribution from the NHS. Hospices are responsible for raising the vast majority of the finances they need to operate per year through donations and charitable activities, such as sponsored walks, craft fairs, local charity shops and commemorative events. These activities have been particularly badly hit during the covid pandemic, and many hospices are struggling for funding to continue their important work.

How we and our clients help support hospices

Many of our clients access hospice services, either for respite care or for palliative treatment. If patients are bringing a legal claim for their terminal illness, then a previous, landmark judgment secured by Irwin Mitchell means that the family’s legal team can recover the costs of any hospice care from the defendants as part of their settlement. 

This does not affect the value of the settlement to the family, but it does mean that the hospice will receive a payment to cover the cost of the care made necessary by the defendant’s negligence.

The family of Karl Kenway, from Flixton, have recently brought such a claim. Karl died aged 67 following a diagnosis of mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lung almost always associated with exposure to asbestos.

Prior to the former hairdresser’s death, Karl and his wife of 45 years, Pauline, instructed specialist asbestos-related disease solicitors at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how he came to develop the illness. 

As part of Karl’s case, the family’s legal team could recover costs related to the care that Karl received from St Ann’s Hospice in Heald Green in his final months. As a result, almost £59,000 was presented to the charity.

A sum of £31,000 was also recovered by Irwin Mitchell and presented to St Ann’s Hospice following the death of Robert Robinson, 70, from Tyldesley, Manchester.  He died from mesothelioma, spending the last days of his life in St Ann’s.

A caring environment in time of need

Gerry Coombs, the asbestos-related disease expert at Irwin Mitchell representing Karl's and Robert’s loved ones, said: “St Ann’s Hospice cares for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones. 

"The staff there put their all into looking after their patients to ensure that they have the best quality of life they possibly can despite illness.  I know from visiting my clients in hospices how much they appreciate the welcoming and caring environment the staff create for them as well as the access to the specialist medical expertise in relieving symptoms.

“We are so pleased that the families of Karl and Robert have been able to make this substantial payment back to St Ann’s Hospice to help to fund the invaluable work that goes on there looking after patients in the area. 

“The families of Karl and Robert were devastated by the loss of their loved ones. Nothing can change what they have been through but I know how pleased they are to be able to pay tribute to their loved ones and to make this contribution to the hospice.”

Karl began to feel unwell in July 2018, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma shortly afterwards.

He was admitted to St Ann’s Hospice in April 2019, where he stayed until his death in September the same year.

Family's thanks to St Ann's Hospice

His widow Pauline, a retired primary school teacher, said: “I miss Karl every day.  We had such a happy life together and were enjoying our retirement when he fell ill.  It all happened so quickly.

“I would like to recognise the wonderful work that the staff at St Ann’s do to support patients. The whole team, from the kitchen staff, the cleaners up to the medical team, were so kind and supportive. They were there for Karl and for me at the most difficult time we could have ever imagined and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything they did. I hope that the donation means the hospice can continue to help others going through what we did.”

Ann-Marie Wynne, head of fundraising at St Ann’s Hospice commented, “Here at St Ann’s Hospice we believe that everyone deserves to have the best quality of life possible. We aim to meet the unique physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of those with a life-limiting illness, and to help maintain their dignity. We provide specialist palliative care for people with cancer and non-cancer life-limiting illnesses, at all stages of their illness.

“We’re not just focused on our patients either. We recognise that it’s also a difficult time for relatives, carers and friends and we provide support for them, too.

“We have two locations across Greater Manchester; Heald Green and Little Hulton, and many community outreach services across Greater Manchester including support to people in their own homes in certain areas.

"All our services are free of charge, and the sooner we’re involved, the more we can help”

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families affected by mesothelioma and other diseases at our dedicated asbestos-related disease section.