Alice House Hospice would not be what it is today if it hadn’t been for the vision and determination of local mum-of-four Alice Bendle. In 1969, the 59-year-old was undergoing a routine hospital operation when doctors told her she may die.
"They say they feel like a person and that enables them to live again and that is what she believed was a very important part of the work we were here to do."
As her daughter, Lorna explains “Things really hit her then and she started asking questions like: What will happen to my children and my family? Does my family know? Will I ever see them again?”
Luckily for us all she recovered but the experience left her passionate about making sure that anybody facing a life-limiting illness would never be alone or in pain. Over the next ten years Hospice founder, Alice Bendle, argued her case to town leaders, business owners and residents, harnessed support and raised funds. Alice Bendle passed away in 1993 in the Hospice and Lorna, who is now Vice Chair of the charity’s Board of Trustees, believes her mother would be very proud of how the Hospice has developed.
“When I speak to the patients they tell me everything they could ever want is there for them, often before they need it, and most importantly no one at the Hospice defines them by their disease but as the wonderful individuals that they are. They say they feel like a person and that enables them to live again and that is what she believed was a very important part of the work we were here to do,” said Lorna.
And the rest, as they say, is history ...
The first ten supporters met to discuss the vision of a Hospice for Hartlepool and East Durham.
Fundraising began to turn this vision into a reality.
The newly registered charity bought a house in Hartlepool town centre with the money raised by the local community and converted it into a Hospice which was incorporated as a company.
Two Macmillan Nurses were employed and the first Hospice service began helping individuals living at home with life-limiting illnesses.
The Day Hospice opened giving residents facing serious illness, such as advanced cancer, the specialist care and professional support they need.
The Inpatient Unit opened giving residents access to the town’s first specialist palliative care unit.
The people of the Easington District benefit from a new Homelink service which offers individuals with life-limiting illness and their carers help living at home.
The launch of the Hospice Helpline ensuring expert help and advice for people with terminal illness, their carers and health professionals is never more than a phone call away, 24 hours a day.
Demand for services outstripped the Hospice’s ability to provide and fundraisers launched a capital appeal which aimed to raise enough money to build a new purpose built Hospice to meet the growing needs of the local community.
A total of £2.3million is raised and a state-of-the-art new Hospice is built near the local hospital.
More patients and carers are able to access Hospice services than ever before with the introduction of a Planned Respite Service and more extensive Outpatient Unit clinics.
The Hospice launches a Community Bereavement Service offering much needed help to adults and children facing loss, whether their loved one was cared for by the Hospice or not.
The Hospice launches the Guild of Patrons scheme to seek new funding to secure Hospice services for future generations by funding service developments.
The Hospice hosts its first ever Midnight Walk raising over £65,000 from the first event for their vital services.
Day Hospice expands the vital outpatient service to three days a week.
The Community Bereavement Service extends to offer people in East Durham services closer to home with a new clinic in Blackhall.
Hospice catering staff receive the Golden Apple Award, one of the first care providers in Hartlepool. The award, presented by Hartlepool Borough Council acknowledges food providers who offer high quality, nutritious food.
In light of reduced NHS funding, work begins to source alternative funding opportunities to ensure the security of free Hospice services to the local communities.
April 2012 sees the launch of Alice House Care Agency, part of Alice House Trading Ltd a wholly owned trading subsidiary of Hartlepool Hospice Ltd. It is hoped that the new Agency will be a source of sustainable funding for the Hospice.
Domicilliary Care in the Home is delivered for the first time with the start of Alice House Care Agency and the Homecare Service.
The Hospice secures £510,000 from the Department of Health, to be used to improve the patient environment. Plans are put in place to improve the buildings and allow provision for extended services.
It is announced that profits totalling £53,000 are donated from Alice House Care Agency to the Hospice.
Work begins on the new Holistic Wellbeing Centre, funded by the Department of Health Grant.
The Holistic Wellbeing Centre opens. All outpatient services are now housed in the purpose-built centre freeing up space for development in the existing Hospice building.
A new unit Alice House Care Unit is opened up in the existing Hospice building catering for patients with long-term nursing care needs who do not wish to be looked after for in a care home environment.
Following a market research exercise it became apparent that many people thought the Hospice was called Alice House Hospice, reflecting the name of our founder Alice Bendle and the name of the building in which we are based. As a result we have decided to rebrand Hartlepool & District Hospice as Alice House Hospice from October 2016.
In addition to rebranding as Alice House Hospice, the decision was made to bring all Alice House Care Agency services under the charity rather than through the trading subsidiary.
New gardens to the front of Alice House, paid for with grants, were officially opened. They feature a gentle water feature, places to sit and reflect and a beautiful Wall of Light.