Founder of original Sunderland hospice visits new £12million facility

Sister Elizabeth Smith who worked at St. Benedicts Hospice for 30 years, pictured with chairman of trustees Derek Moss at the new hospice in Ryhope.
Sister Elizabeth Smith who worked at St. Benedicts Hospice for 30 years, pictured with chairman of trustees Derek Moss at the new hospice in Ryhope.
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A RETIRED nurse has returned to the Wearside hospice she helped set up 30 years ago.

Elizabeth Smith worked at Havelock Hospital, which used to be in Hylton Road, Sunderland, when she was chosen to be on the team to create the city’s first hospice.

The 89-year-old named it St Benedict’s after the adopted saint of Sunderland.

Last year, St Benedict’s moved to a new £12million centre in Ryhope from Monkwearmouth Hospital, in Newcastle Road, and bosses were delighted to welcome back one of its founders.

Elizabeth, from Lakeside Village, said: “When I first saw the new building, I was quite taken with it.

“It is fantastic that they now have a dedicated place to do their important work.

“At Havelock, the only place patients could go was to sit outside on the seat, but they never bothered.

“Now they have got an entire place just for them, it’s comfortable for them.”

Before she retired in 1986, Elizabeth helped train the nursing staff who would go on to work at St Benedict’s, first at Havelock Hospital and then at Monkwearmouth, where it moved in 1994.

Elizabeth said: “The patients never lost their humour, even though they knew what was happening to them.

“On one lady’s 90th birthday, we served her sparking white wine. She had us chuckling because she said she was tiddly on three glasses of shampoo.

“They were all amazing.

“I encouraged the staff to cry with families, cuddle with families and be on first name terms with patients and their families.”

The hospice now has 14 beds, a day unit and out-of-hours care as well as lymphoedema, outpatient services and an education department.

It was developed by the NHS with the help of patients and their families.

The hospice’s charity contributed £1.3million to the cost of the centre, which is operated by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.

Derek Moss, chairman of the trustees, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic Elizabeth is able to tell us these wonderful stories.

“It’s an excellent facility we are able to provide and if you look back to the Havelock and Newcastle Road, which used to be an accident hospital that was converted, then look to this, we can offer patients the facilities they need.”

An appeal is under way to buy the hospice a minibus. St Benedict’s is also preparing to host a James Bond-themed 30th anniversary ball at the Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham on the evening of Friday, September 26.

For more details, call 512 8436.