When Nicky Saxton’s father John Hever died in Kirkwood Hospice in December last year she was surprised to discover that the ‘marvellous’ care and attention he had received was mostly funded by charitable donation.

“To be honest, I was quite staggered,” says Nicky, who was raised in Crosland Moor, Huddersfield but now lives in London. “I always thought the hospice was funded by the authorities.”

She is not alone in this belief. As Tim Coward, media and marketing manager at the hospice, points out: “A lot of people can’t believe that a service that looks after so many people isn’t completely funded by the health service. They get quite angry about it.”

The discovery that Kirkwood, which recently underwent a £3m redesign and refurbishment, gets only 18% of its funding from Government sources led Nicky to wonder what she could do to help. The answer turned out to be right under her nose.

She explained: “During that last day at my dad’s bedside, I’d gone for a walk down to their gift shop area and this is where I found a flyer to do a tandem skydive. It was on a small A5 piece of paper and I popped it into my handbag to take home. It was about a month later, when I was clearing out my bag, that I found it again and got in touch with Emily at the hospice’s fund raising department to see what I had to do.”

And so, on September 21 Nicky will fall from the clouds, plunging 15,000 feet, in the UK’s highest skydive. She hopes to raise hundreds of pounds by doing so.

Fund-raisers like Nicky were responsible last year for contributing £820,000 towards hospice running costs. It is one of the major income streams for the Dalton-based charity that was founded from a public appeal launched more than 30 years ago, and almost matches the £900,000 or so acquired through bequests.

Since those early days the hospice has grown into a resource that not only cares for a person in the last days of their life but works in the community to improve the lives of both terminally-ill patients and their carers. More than 24,000 patients have been cared for at the hospice since it opened in 1987.

In those early days, annual running costs were £300,000 a year, today they are more than £5m – equating to nearly £400 a day for each in-patient; £160 for each home visit by a member of the Specialist Palliative Care Team; and £55 per patient contact to the Family Care Team, which provides a counselling service.

State funding for hospices nationally is patchy and far from uniform. In some areas hospices receive up to 40% of their funding from the public purse, while in others it can be as little as 12%.

Since its inception, the Huddersfield hospice has grown a vast network of supporters and fund-raisers – some 500 volunteers give their time in roles from hospitality and reception duties to gardening at the hospice site. Charity shops, of which the hospice now has 20 across Kirklees, raised £1.8 last year, and are also staffed by volunteers. More helpers of all kinds are always needed.

 

As Tim points out, the hospice relies on the generosity of local people. It’s not uncommon for volunteers to approach the fund-raising team after a bereavement or when a relative is receiving care.

He explained: “We find that people have very different ways of dealing with grief and some use the Family Care Team and access the counselling service while others channel their grief by organising fund-raising events or taking part in one of ours, or volunteering to give something back.”

Such involvement with the hospice also serves a wider purpose – to promote the many different facets of its work.

As Tim says: “There is a massive misconception that as soon as someone comes into the hospice they are going to die but people come in for symptom control and go home again. We had a man in recently who was very poorly, but a couple of days later he was walking around the gardens with his son.”

In fact, Nicky’s father, who suffered from lung cancer, was initially admitted to the hospice in order to get symptom control, and should have gone home after 10 days. However, as Nicky recounts, his condition deteriorated so rapidly that he died three days later in the hospice.

However, she has nothing but praise for the treatment her father received and the facilities at the hospice. “When you walk in you’re struck by what a phenomenal place it is,” she said. “It’s respectful, peaceful and quiet.”

Anyone who would like to support Nicky and her skydive fund-raiser can do so through https:// www.justgiving.com/Nicky-Saxton/ or texting 70070 with the code JPHK71 plus the amount donated.

John Hever and his wife Margaret on their wedding day in 1964. They would have celebrated their golden wedding this year
 

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