Meet the Hampstead hospice caring for the critically ill this Christmas

Staff outside Marie Curie hospice in Hampstead

Staff outside Marie Curie hospice in Hampstead - Credit: Polly Hancock

As families across the country celebrate Christmas this year, a Hampstead hospice will be making sure the most vulnerable patients are looked after.  

Marie Curie cares for more than 40,000 terminally ill people every year in the UK. It started off as a charity in Hampstead in 1948. 

The hospice it runs in Lyndhurst Gardens provides end of life services to people across north London – and this festive period will be no different. 

Medical director Dr Philip Lodge told the Ham&High: “We have to be mindful that although Christmas is a happy time for many, when people are unwell – particularly perhaps approaching end of life – there's a balance to be struck between the usual trappings of Christmas and happiness, versus the sadness that people are going through. 

“There's an importance to recognise it (the sadness), individually, as families, but also as a nation. Although it’s fundamentally supposed to be a happy time, it can also emphasise loss and sadness.

“So it’s bittersweet. I hope that when people gather this Christmas, they remember that actually there are people who can't celebrate and there are people who are too sad to actually be happy. That's the truth.” 

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Marie Curie faced losses of £224,000 per month in Hampstead as it grappled with an 82% fall in fundraising.

Medical director Dr Philip Lodge

Medical director Dr Philip Lodge - Credit: Polly Hancock

Dr Lodge said that, nationally, the charity is in a healthier position 18 months on, but that locally the impact of being unable to hold community fundraisers has taken its toll.  

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The medical director called limits on visitors, particularly towards the onset of Covid, "distressing” for families and staff. He said he was proud of workers who continued to battle through the huge challenges Covid had thrown their way.

Emphasising the positive impact of caring for people as they approach the end of their life, he added: “People often say: ‘How do you do your job?’ But every night I go home and think we have done something positive for that person.  

“It's not something that is ever traumatic. It is a positive, almost life-affirming experience which is so important for people.  

“I think the word hospice can have terribly negative connotations to the public and I'd love it if the word hospice was associated... yes with that sadness, but also with the fantastic work and support that is provided.” 

To donate to Marie Curie visit mariecurie.org.uk/christmas

Marie Curie Hampstead hospice staff

From left: social worker Nilufa Lais; ward manager Claire Hutchison; medical director Philip Lodge; physician Karon Ornadel; housekeeping assistant Elsa Mengasha - Credit: Polly Hancock

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