My personal involvement with Sobell House began in 1980 when my wife was appointed as a specialist community/home care nurse previously known as Macmillan nurses
I was a general practitioner in Didcot and at that time relationships between Sobell and general practice were not always comfortable due to the disparity between the service offered by Sobell House and that which the GP’s felt was needed. We have all learned over the years the importance of mutual respect and recognition of the complexities of work in all areas of medical care and the need to put the patient and their family at the heart of all their expertise.
Sobell, as a centre of excellence, has radiated knowledge out to general practice and community teamwork, formal and informal teaching continues to improve the situation for the patient facing a life limiting illness.
When I retired from general practice, I was invited to become a trustee of the Sobell House Charity and subsequently became the Chairman. Initially there existed a tripartite tension between the Charity, the House and OUH Trust. All parties have worked hard to reduce these tensions but without doubt Sobell House is fortunate to have such generous financial support from the community when compared with equally important units, reinforcing the need for the next development to extend palliative care.
After becoming chairman, I decided that I knew little about the work of the ward so I became a volunteer or ‘trolley dolly’! This has been a real learning experience and I began to respect highly the devotion and care given to all the patients by the nurses and the support staff, sometimes in very difficult and demanding circumstances. Apart from the compassion and sadness involved in end of life care, there was also a great sense of humour within the ward team creating a very sustaining environment in which to work.
The Charity recognises the importance of research and education within palliative care and will continue to give its full support for end of life care in Oxfordshire. Sobell House exists for the benefit of patients in Oxfordshire and this will always be in the forefront of the minds of those involved in the organisation.
Looking to the immediate future, money is being raised to spread the expertise in end of life care throughout the OUHT. If this is as successful as the improvement in palliative care within General Practice, Oxfordshire will bear a real debt of gratitude to all the generous donors and fund raisers within this county who make it possible.
Dr Bill Couldrick
Trustee of Sobell House Hospice Charity and retired GP