Thursday 29 March marks a significant date in the history of Worthing hospice St Barnabas House – it will be exactly 50 years since the appeal to support the building of the original hospice was launched.
The St Barnabas Appeal for £100,000 to build a new facility to accommodate around 30 patients with life-limiting illnesses was officially launched at a public meeting at Worthing Assembly Hall on Friday 29 March 1968.
Originally named the ‘St Barnabas Home’, the hospice was based on Columbia Drive in Durrington. It was inspired by Dr Francis Gusterson, a consultant anaesthetist at Worthing and Southlands Hospitals, who chaired the appeal.
The launch of the appeal was attended by Dame Cicely Saunders, widely recognised as being the founder of the hospice movement, who spoke about the opening of St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham four months previously.
She told an audience of 250 people: “The work among people in advanced stages of illness is not sad depressing work – it is incredibly satisfying. What these people want is relief from pain and distress, comfort and compassion. They need longer-term nursing than can be given in a busy general ward.”
At the meeting, which occurred the day after the Budget, Dr Gusterson remarked: “I am told this is a bad time to launch an appeal. It is always a bad time to launch appeals. Everybody is worried about their standards of living. What I am hoping to interest people in is other people’s standards of dying.”
Dr Raymond Franks, Consultant in Geriatrics to the Worthing Group Hospitals, first proposed the idea of a terminal home for local cancer patients
He spotted the significance of the high number of cancer deaths in the Worthing area occurring at home or in commercial nursing homes during the mid-1960s.
Simultaneously, trustees of the Worthing Remembrance Fund were finding it difficult to allocate gifts they received meaningfully. In 1966 they approached Dr Gusterson to propose he taken on chairmanship of an appeal to build a home in Worthing.
A 12-strong committee, with Burnham Roe as Treasurer, was formed as a result, and this led to the launch of the St Barnabas’ Appeal, appropriately named after the Saint of Consolation who sold all of his lands to give money to the church of Antioch when they were in great need.
The total required to complete the project was £100,000 (over £1.5 million today), but the cost eventually rose to £183,107.
The organisation was officially formed on Friday 5 April 1968 and it was registered as a charity under on Thursday 3 October 1968.
St Barnabas was one of the early pioneers of the hospice movement and when it first opened its doors on Monday 1 January 1973 it became the first such establishment in the South East of England, outside of London.
As the hospice has evolved since, its services have developed accordingly to reflect the changing needs of patients and their families. In 2011 the hospice moved into a new facility on Titnore Lane.
Since then the organisation has launched a Hospice at Home service which enables patients to have end-of-life care in their own homes during the day and through the difficult night-time hours.
Two years ago it introduced a Disease Specific Nursing Team enabling it to provide specialist care for patients with Renal Failure, Liver Disease, Respiratory Disease, Advanced Heart Failure and Dementia.
Since the hospice first opened in 1973, St Barnabas has provided care for more than 39,000 patients and countless family members. Today it provides specialist palliative care for over 1,500 patients each year.
Dr Gusterson served as Medical Director until his retirement on 31 January 1981 and immediately became Vice President. Later that year he died peacefully in his sleep.
Following Dr Gusterson’s retirement, Dr Alan Kingsbury was appointed as successor and continued in the role of Medical Director until March 1993.
Dr Kingsbury attended the St Barnabas House Annual General Meeting in November 2017, and was special guest at the Christmas tree light switch on in December which he attended with former Matron, Margaret Stroud.
He commented: “We were both at St Barnabas from day one, and one of the things I find so wonderful when I come back here is the spirit that we had right in those early days, which was for the care of people who are so seriously ill. This is still maintained today, providing the very best on all occasions.
“Dr Gusterson was told by one of his fundraisers that we would need lots of money, and we certainly did to start off with. We still need it now, perhaps even more so, to provide that quality of palliative care that is so necessary.”
Read more about the history of St Barnabas House at www.stbh.org.uk/our-history