Grant Shapps MP spoke to our Communications Manager about his and his family’s experiences at our Inpatient Unit at Michael Sobell House. Our Team first cared for Grant’s family in 1982 when his grandmother stayed with us and recently we were able to offer our care once again as we supported Grant’s father during his end of life journey. Read more below.
Can you please share with us some personal insights into your family’s experience at the IPU during your father’s time there? Were there any specific moments or interactions that left a lasting impression or stood out about the care that your father and family received?
When you imagine a hospice looking after a loved one at the end of life, it’s hard to imagine it being anything other than an incredibly sad place. You would expect the building, the people and the atmosphere to be permanently down and depressing. Yet whilst these were amongst the worst days our family has ever known, the experience was made so much more bearable by the unbelievable kindness shown by the entire team at Michael Sobell House. Nothing was too much trouble. The level of care and attention was remarkable. The only reason why it is difficult to pick out a single moment or interaction that sticks in my mind is because the quality of care and support was so solid throughout. The hospice is full of wonderful people working incredibly hard and really looking after not just the person in need of palliative care, but our extended family too.
You mentioned that your grandmother also passed away at Michael Sobell House several years ago. In your family’s experience, how has the Hospice evolved since then and are there any aspects of care that have remained consistent over the years?
My grandma Kitty passed away in Michael Sobell House in 1982 and I was a child. We lived within two miles of Mount Vernon and I can remember walking to the hospice with my older brother Andre. I haven’t stepped foot in Michael Sobell House in the intervening years, but thought that I could vaguely recall the dining area and rough shape of the place.
As I was young, I don’t have much recollection about the specifics of the care back then, but I do know that my family were very impressed with Michael Sobell House and would often mention how great grandma Kitty’s care had been. In this regard, the similarities of outstanding care outweigh everything else, even though I know the approach of hospice care is developing all the time.
How has your personal experience at the Hospice influenced your views on the importance of palliative and end of life care in the community?
I have been a patron for my local hospice in my constituency for nearly 20 years and we have held a fundraising Christmas Fair each year on their behalf and visited the hospice and its associated activities dozens of time. However, there is clearly no comparison with actually experiencing hospice care when someone as close as my own father was admitted.
Put quite simply, before we were referred to the hospice we were struggling to get any sense from the overall healthcare system; being pushed from pillar to post. The hospice brought all his care under one roof in the final weeks of his life. It changed everything. Rather than having to constantly battle to think what we should be doing next, the hospice took over. My father was much more comfortable and genuinely enjoyed talking to the staff and nurses in the hospice too. So I know that he appreciated that experience. As did our entire family.
Many families might find choosing hospice care a very difficult decision. What would you say to reassure someone facing a similar situation as you have experienced, particularly about the quality and support they can expect at Michael Sobell House?
For us it was very straightforward. We had been struggling to find the right care for my father before we rediscovered Michael Sobell House. The great thing about the Hospice is that it doesn’t necessarily mean the end. In fact, he came in the first time, experienced exceptional care and came out fitter than when he arrived – providing the entire family, as well as my dad, with a real boost.
I think that people think of a hospice and think that it is the end. But I know from my own involvement in my local hospice that this isn’t necessarily the case at all, especially when it can be about respite care for the individual and their family.
As the Hospice relies on support from the community and volunteers, how do you think individuals and organisations could contribute to ensuring that the level of care you witnessed, continues to be available to others in need?
Having been loosely involved in fundraising for my local hospice for many years, I know that hospices need to constantly remind the surrounding community of their value. The families who experience hospice care typically feel very attached and their support can last for very many years. I would say that both fundraising and volunteering are at the heart of the hospice movement. In my experience, hospices bring out the best in people.
How do you envision the legacy of your father and grandmother living on through your continued affiliation with the Hospice? Ros (Dr Ros Taylor MBE, Medical Director) did mention that your father was an avid table tennis player and that you were planning to do something around this?
Well I know that my dad was keen to donate one of his table tennis tables to the hospice which would be a lovely legacy and I hope will bring joy to others. I hope I can be of some limited use to Michael Sobell House too, perhaps by helping to share the experiences of Isabel Hospice which is based in my Welwyn Hatfield constituency.