Hospice the first in Durham to receive specialist cancer care accreditation

A DURHAM end-of-life facility is the first hospice across the county to achieve specialist accreditation for the top level of care it provides to people with cancer.

Willow Burn Hospice has been awarded the prestigious Macmillan Quality Environment Mark (MQEM) in recognition of the quality experience cancer patients and their families receive at its care facility in Lanchester, near Consett. 

It is one of just two hospices located within the NHS’ North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board to have gained the status, along with Teesside Hospice.

Willow Burn Hospice was founded by Valerie Richardson and Irene Mortimer nearly 35 years ago when they identified a gap in end-of-life and palliative care locally, and a day service was set up following financial support from Macmillan Cancer Support.

Cath Williams, a nurse at Willow Burn Hospice, and Paul Jackson, the charity’s chair of board, with the MacMillan Quality Environment Mark plaque in an in-patient bedroom within the hospice’s Helen McArdle Wing.

Paul Jackson, Chair of the hospice, said: “I am thrilled that Willow Burn has not only met but exceeded the level required to attain the Macmillan Quality Environment Mark. I have always been proud of the beautiful, caring environment we have created over the years, but to have that endorsed by Macmillan is really special, particularly as it was the original funder of the hospice over 30 years ago.

“Of course, awards like this aren’t possible without the dedication of our staff and volunteers, and of course, Sir Tom Cowie and Helen McArdle CBE, who funded our Health and Wellbeing Centre and Hospice. 

“I extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who has contributed and continues to contribute to the design of our hospice and the care we provide. We are dedicated to not only maintaining the current environment, but improving it and are currently refurbishing some of our service areas.”

Willow Burn Hospice provides end-of-life and palliative care for people with incurable illnesses from its purpose-built facility.

The MQEM was developed by Macmillan Cancer Support in partnership with the Department of Health as the first national standard for cancer facilities across England, with a focus on the design and use of built environments and how they are designed, used and managed to support high quality care to improve the wellbeing of people affected by cancer.

To achieve the MQEM, care facilities need to prove they:

  • are welcome and accessible to all;
  • respect the privacy and dignity of all users;
  • support the comfort and wellbeing of all users;
  • give users choice and control;
  • Listen to the users’ voices.

Assessors of Willow Burn determined: “The hospice comfortably achieved compliance with the MQEM standards, scoring five in many of the requirements during the assessment.

“The assessors were impressed with the team at Willow Burn Hospice and their innate understanding of the impact that a well-designed and utilised environment can have on patients and their families.

“Patients and families are clearly at the heart of the service and every effort is made to make them feel at home in a comfortable and non clinical environment.”

Accepting the MQEM on behalf of Willow Burn Hospice is one of Paul’s last official duties as Chair of the board ahead of his retirement in November.

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