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.
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.
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.
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.