February start date for new palliative care unit

NEARLY five years ago, the Palliative Care East appeal was launched with an auction of helicopter flights to raise money for a new centre for the terminally ill at the James Paget University Hospital.

And yesterday the centre was given formal clearance for take-off when the fundraising team behind the project announced building work will begin on the new state-of-the-art �1.5m centre in the hospital's grounds in February.

So far, the appeal has raised �1.3m thanks to the generosity of hundreds of people, including friends, neighbours, social groups, clubs and societies who have chipped in by organising fundraising events.

Many have created personal gifts in memory of a loved one.

One major boost came in May when a 50-strong team of women climbed the 4,400ft high Ben Nevis peak in Scotland to raise �64,240 for Belton man Tremaine Kent's Carla's Angels appeal. Mr Kent, an ex elite special forces member, set up the appeal to try to raise �30,000 for the charity in memory of his partner Carla Saunders, who died of cancer in 2009.

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The aim of the centre is to provide first class care, therapies and advice in a purpose-built environment, as well as pain management and relief and emotional, spiritual and practical support. However, no additional beds will be provided – the centre will have a much broader scope to offer palliative care in its many forms.

John Hemming, chairman of the centre's project board, said yesterday: 'I am thrilled to be able to announce this news today. The new resource centre will provide support to all those people with a terminal illness in Great Yarmouth and Waveney and their carers and families.'

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One of the main exhibits at this year's Chelsea Flower Show will be the focal point for the centre's garden. The Homebase Cornish Memories Garden, designed by Thomas Hoblyn from Bury St Edmunds, includes a water feature and striking circular pavilion which will be incorporated into the final design.

Appeal co-ordinator Jenny Watson said: 'I'm personally delighted with the news that a little bit of Chelsea is coming to Gorleston to be admired, not only by patients and their families, but also the community at large. It is a wonderful gift that we have received and the timing is very fitting after all the achievements of Carla's Angels and the girls of Ben Nevis to raise money for the garden.

'Through these amazing efforts �74,000 has been raised. My thanks go to all our fantastic fundraisers who have brought us to this landmark stage.'

The pavilion was originally offered to Suffolk-based St Elizabeth Hospice by the Suffolk Foundation, an independent grant-maker for charities and community groups throughout the county.

However, the hospice's chief executive Jane Petit agreed it was slightly too large and instead hoped the appeal could benefit from it.

Statistics show on average 2,000 people die each year across Great Yarmouth and Waveney and of those about 1,900 have a chronic illness needing palliative care.

The project board will be working with partners including NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney and the charities Big C, Macmillan Cancer Support and St Elizabeth Hospice to deliver the new centre. The aim is to have the centre and garden completed by December next year.

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