The gold standard in cancer support


In my previous post, I mentioned that I had been invited to stay at a hotel for people affected by cancer and life threatening illnesses. That experience was probably one of the most uplifting I have had in recent years, but yet again I am writing this post with a large degree of frustration, and as we get further into the piece you will understand why.

I consider myself very privileged to do the work I do and meet so many wonderful people. The ‘asks’ I receive are varied, but I will only ever consider projects if I can see some tangible results in the short term. So when I was invited to visit  The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth and check out their facilities for people affected by cancer, I was interested. Firstly, despite the seven year journey with my own disease, and spending the last few years heavily involved in cancer support, I am upset to say that I had never previously heard of such facilities in this country. Secondly, if it was as good as it seemed, why did I struggle to find anyone who knew about it?

Before coming down I was asked to provide an up to date letter from my hospital with all my current treatment and medication. This was for the 24/7 nursing team that is on site if required. There are rooms which are adapted for people with special requirements and the entire hotel has wheelchair access throughout. In recent times I have lost the joy of travelling due to problems with my health and having regular treatment, but this is a place, I could come to without worrying about any of those issues.

The gold standard of cancer support 1

Everything has been incredibly well planned, and nothing is too much trouble. Special diets and issues with transport have all been taken care of, so all you have to do, is to relax. It is beautifully situated, within ten minutes of the beach and town centre, and has it’s own, recently landscaped tranquil gardens. I found the staff were all very special people, helping an incredibly inspiring group of guests. Some were managing to find a calm time during their chemo regimes, but for others this may have been the last holiday they were able to take.

The Grove is a not for profit organisation funded by a local charity called Macmillan Caring Locally, not to be confused with Macmillan Cancer Support. It was a great pleasure to speak at length with the Trust Secretary about what they do. I found it very refreshing to talk to people who truly cared about their work, and were solely focused on helping people affected by cancer. During my many opportunities to talk to other guests, I was constantly enquiring how they found out about the hotel. The most common answer was a piece of paper on a notice board in their local hospice and many were repeat visitors.

My frustration came because these facilities would have been so helpful to myself and my wife during some of my very dark times. But despite being under the umbrella of the N.H.S for so long and working with many cancer charitable organisations, not once was this venue mentioned! It became obvious from my marketing discussions with the hotel staff that health organisations were just not interested in promoting anything where they didn’t have an interest. Nothing really new to me, but shocking as far as patients are concerned.

I see so many incredible projects and products to help people affected by cancer, but they struggle to get publicised due to the red tape and stranglehold that large organisations have within the cancer sector. In many respects I do understand the caution, and the need to ensure that things are absolutely right of course, but the rules and regulations that are there primarily to protect people, are also hindering progress. The politics that exist between major organisations in the health sector are quite frankly embarrassing. At times it is hard to believe that these companies exist to help people.

Help and support signpost

Where I struggle with all of this, is that places like The Grove will improve the general well being of people and hopefully they will then be less reliant on the system. Surely this is a win-win? I saw at first hand the difference that it makes to people’s lives. Being cared for professionally and time away  for the carers too, this place should not be kept a secret! But why is a service like this not promoted by the N.H.S? Why do charities continue to politely turn their back on facilities like this? The services I witnessed, are of a much higher standard than I have ever seen, so I am sure they would have no trouble in obtaining the necessary certification, if only someone would take the trouble to look and listen.

If you are affected by any cancer and any life threatening illness you will be very welcome at The Grove. Sure, it is not free but extremely reasonable daily rates and special offers, but more importantly you will feel better for visiting. I have already started telling my friends, who I know will benefit from a visit there. My blog is not a place I use to advertise individual organisations but this is just another example of how we need to signpost patients to services, as unfortunately the current system seems to be falling a long way short in that department.

You can find The Grove on their website  On Facebook and Twitter @TheGroveB

Please feel free to get in touch if you know of other services that are not getting the publicity they deserve, to help improve the lives of people affected by cancer. Have you benefited from a service you found accidentally? How do you find ‘signposting’ in the cancer world?  I would love to hear from you.




  1. Chris, The Grove Bournemouth contacted me at Womb Cancer Support UK a few months back and I must say I was very impressed by what they did. I totally agree with what you have said in your blog about the NHS and large cancer charities not “connecting” with smaller organisations. It seems so wrong that anything outside of the main system is ignored and patients are not benefiting from services such as The Grove. I guess it is up to people like yourself who have a voice and are being listened to on both sides to break down the barriers. Where you go, others will follow!

  2. Thx Kaz! Through my blog, I want to open up a discussion by sharing my own experiences. From both inside and as a patient, I don’t see much collaboration at all. The patient gets forgotten in a battle between red tape and brand ego. Of course there are good examples of working together, but generally these are the exceptions. Meanwhile wonderful resources such as The Grove, are fighting to get noticed. For such little effort, many more people could benefit from resources like this, and surely that is what it’s about?

    Thanks so much for your valued support, Chris

  3. Chris, I am so pleased you had a good time. We are so proud of our team at the Grove – they are the reason guests come back again and again.
    Thank you for taking time to do this review, we really appreciate you helping us to spread the word.

    • Thx so much Neal. You and your team deserve massive credit for the vision you had in providing such wonderful services for people affected by cancer. Not only the vision but the financial support too, without which it couldn’t keep running.

      The very least the system could do is advertise your service to the people who need it. I will ensure that that is now done, even if I do it all personally!

      We are getting some really positive feedback from people and I will keep you updated. Thank you for doing what you are doing. The cancer world is a better place for organisations like yours. Chris

  4. Thanks Chris for your understanding , regarding the difficulties we face when it comes to spreading the word about the Grove, we feel so privileged to be able to work at the Grove and ensure our guests get the best possible experience, as we feel this is a great form of medication to our guests, whether they are on their own or with their carer/ family or friends , but we keep coming to barriers when we are trying to promote our facility as we notice that most places we send info to don’t even put the details on the notice boards, and yet are not surgery and hospitals offering a caring service as well as us? So why can they not promote us?, and in the position with many hospitals being short of beds, I’m guessing that there are a lot of people that would reach our criteria and benefit from the Grove. Thanks again Chris.

    • Brenden, I have seen first hand the difference that you guys make to the lives of people affected by cancer. My personal experience in the cancer support area has shown me that it operates in an almost ‘cartel’ way, and is very difficult from an organisation outside of that to become established.

      It was not exactly a surprise for me to hear that you get blocked in your attempts to advertise your services through official channels. Even my own hospital don’t tell patients about my work, because it is not N.H.S approved 🙂

      The internet has changed all of that, but of course it would be much better if we could work together. I am doing my best to get collaboration higher up the agenda, because surely all we want to do is make things better for people?

      Thanks for all you do, and I will do my best to ensure more people hear about your wonderful services. Chris

  5. I and my late wife, who fought lung cancer for 3 years, were lucky enough to be told of the Albony Lodge, the hotel owned by MCL before the Grove, by her Macmillan nurse. But talking to others in our position, its not general knowledge, even to them. We did manage a couple of holidays at the Albony as well as the Grove, before Jan passed away.
    I am glad to say that I am still able to use the hotel when they have spring breaks and Turkey and Tinsel for the Bereaved. I also, along with a few others have become Ambassadors for the hotel, trying to do our bit to spread the word. So seeing this blog, I felt I just had to chip in and add my comments. Like you, we found absolutely nothing lacking in the hotel, no matter which aspect you care to mention.

    • Hi Paul, many thanks for getting in touch. When comments get left on the site is always helpful for others to read, so thanks so much for sharing your story.

      It seems that you were really lucky to find out about these wonderful facilities, and your experience was exactly as mine. Thank you so much for the work you do personally to share your experience of this wonderful place, with the other Ambassadors. Brenden mentioned the work you do.

      Through my personal speaking roles and my work on social media I am also doing my best to make sure more people hear about The Grove. Many thanks for sharing your experience, Chris

  6. Thankyou for advertising this wonderful place The Grove.
    I started a Cancer Support Group in our town last year as there was no support available suitable, it was either out of area or evening and as a person with secondary cancer this wasto much to consider.I have mention The Grove to our group members as I found it while searching the web. As you say why dont the NHS tell us about such places, im appauled at some of the trwatment I have had in my 20 years of Cancer patient. Ive even changed hospitals due to a consultant oncologist refusing to give me a scan requested by another consultant. ! . There are some wonderfully caring living people who have also passed through my live during this period. But emotional support has been lost ,if it was ever there. I hope to arrange a break at the Grove and im really looking foward to it. Thank you for your story about such a wonderful place.
    Gina Biggleswade Cancer Support Group in Bedfordshire.

  7. Hi Gina, thanks for sharing your own experience, and well done with starting a support group. It is always difficult to get the timing and venue to suit everyone, which is why social media is becoming more important, although of course it is hard to replace the face to face contact of a group.

    Regarding your point about emotional support, I’m not really sure if it does exist officially. My own experience has shown me how difficult it is to find anything like that, which is why I started my own website. It feels that once outside of the hospital you are on your own.

    After many years of volunteering in cancer organisations and much time still spent as a patient, I have come to the conclusion that most are only interested in promoting their own work. It rarely is about the person affected by cancer. Of course there are some exceptions, but the N.H.S is so bound up in it’s own red tape, the staff barely have time to look up, let alone worry about your recuperation.

    Thanks for mentioning The Grove to your group and hopefully the sun will be shining for your visit. My very best to you and your group, Chris

  8. I took my late husband Steve to The Grove in May 2013. We had a very special time there. The room we had was totally met all of Steve’s needs. The staff were friendly, helpful but not intrusive. We had a couple of lovely coach trips. Even made it down onto the beach with the lift. The food was just perfect and it meant that I could relax and enjoy our time together. There was also evening entertainment and we really enjoyed that too. Can recommend this place to anyone who has medical needs. Health professionals can also spend time there to see what the place offers. I have a lot of very happy memories.

    • Hi Julie

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful comments about your stay with Steve at the Grove, we appreciate it as all the staff work so hard to ensure our guests have the best experience.

  9. Hi Julie, thanks so much for sharing your own experiences at the Grove. It is entirely about making happy memories and I’m so pleased you both had a special time. When I talk to people about the hotel, most imagine a hospice environment, and struggle to understand the concept. But I have seen personally the difference it can make to people, and it was indeed a wonderful haven for my wife and I during some difficult times.
    I am now doing my best to ensure that more people find out about it.

    • Hi Chris

      Thank you for putting the point across about the hospice environment,you are right, we have lots of provisional guests who are concerned about this issue, as well as the pre conception that we are a “waiting for god hotel” again we are nothing like that, but this has been very hard to get across. We are like any other hotel with great service and a Nurse on 24hrs for reassurance and back up, to enable our guests to enjoy their stay knowing that there is support should they need it.

  10. Hi Brenden.

    Yes, that is indeed an issue that crops up frequently, but we are making good headway now in explaining how the hotel works. If anyone is in doubt I am always happy to speak to them!
    Keep up the fab work Brenden and team, it is much appreciated by everyone who benefits from your services.

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