Health: Clifford House heralds the dawn of new era for hospice

St Luke's chief executive Peter Hartland in front of Clifford House
St Luke's chief executive Peter Hartland in front of Clifford House

Tucked away in a leafy Sheffield suburb lies a stunning Victorian mansion - the former home of Charles Clifford. Many Sheffielders will know him for the dental hospital but he was also editor of the Telegraph and Star. And now his home is making the news after it was announced it has been sold to St Luke’s Hospice. Staff in Whirlow are putting the final touches to the a facility at Clifford House, which will be used as a new centre for patients in the early stages of cancer.

The picturesque Victorian mansion, acquired in 2016, will house up to 30 users for relaxation, activities and support just yards from the hospice’s base on Little Common Lane.

St Luke's Hospice  Fran Lightfoot

St Luke's Hospice Fran Lightfoot

Chief executive Peter Hartland said: “What we want to do is translate the outstanding work we do in St Luke’s and bring that to Clifford House, making the hospice as a whole one of the best health care centres in the country, if not the world.”

Back in 2008, St Luke’s was not in a good way. Terminally ill patients were queuing up to go to the toilet and had to book time slots for a bath.

Walls were in need of a lick of paint and the facilities looked tired. Bleak finances and crumbling facilities dampened what amazing work staff did in tough circumstances.

Fast forward nine years and you can hardly believe the stories of its difficult past.

We want to maintain St Luke’s and make it the best it can be

The in-patient wing, rebuilt to a modern standard, has brought a calm atmosphere with none of the clinical edge. Throw in an Outstanding rating from Government inspectorate the Care Quality Commission, and things are looking up.

And now after getting back on a firm footing, the hospice is set to turn another corner with the acquisition of Clifford House - a short walk away.

Mr Hartland said: “What happens to people on that journey from diagnosis and confirmation they’ve got a terminal condition through to the point where we start to see them?

“The answer is, it’s very patchy. If you’re a cancer patient, you will get support from other parts of the system around the city.

St Luke's Hospice  Fran Lightfoot Kathryn Burkitt

St Luke's Hospice Fran Lightfoot Kathryn Burkitt

“If you’re unfortunate enough to have a condition that doesn’t have a big centre in Sheffield, you’ll probably get very little support and you and your family may be left at home contemplating this thing that’s been dropped on you.

“Clifford House has been acquired to enable us to help people earlier in their terminal illness by offering them a range of activities – either one-to-one or group activities around relaxation, practical advice and fun.

“We feel if we can help people in the early phases of their illness, when they get to the difficult stage they’ll be better prepared for it, able to cope better with it and, if we get this right, we may defer or delay the onset of some of the complexities that arise.”

He added: “We want to make a similar impact at Clifford House so when people have got real problems they come and visit us, they feel welcomed and want to return. We are aiming for this to become part and parcel of helping them cope with what is probably the worst news any family can get.”

St Luke's Hospice Jo Lenton and Laura McTague

St Luke's Hospice Jo Lenton and Laura McTague

The house backs on to the current site on Little Common Lane. A bit of hedge-work and a new path has opened up access to the house, which looks more like it should be hosting garden parties and weddings than treating people with a terminal illness.

But it’s in this idyllic environment that staff at St Luke’s believe they can expand their fantastic work.

Clifford House was formerly owned by Gripple boss Hugh Facey. He was keen to sell the building to St Luke’s.

The staff are currently working on the final touches for its operational start on September 12.

Anna Payne, aged 73, from Stocksbridge, whose husband Bob died in St Luke’s after spending five and a half weeks there, said: “The place is amazing, the staff are incredible.

“Right from the cleaners to the catering staff and receptionists they were able to respond on a human level and more importantly be able to see beyond the broken body and to respond to the real person who was still there.

St Luke's Hospice Christine Hillingworth

St Luke's Hospice Christine Hillingworth

“We were all very grateful to St Luke’s for the support they gave the whole family. It made all the difference to the final days caring for Bob.”

Mr Hartland said: “Eight years ago this place could well have shut because our funding was so desperate.

“We had to lose staff and completely overhaul the structure, lose volunteers, change services and so on.

“It was incredibly tough. You feel responsible for what is a Sheffield institution which, in what it does, is endlessly worthy.

“You feel you’re really making a difference to the people of Sheffield who need us. We want to maintain St Luke’s for the next generations and make it the best it can be. I’d like to thank all the amazing staff and the brilliant fundraisers and supporters.”

St Luke's Hospice Chris Quinlan and Marie Egerton

St Luke's Hospice Chris Quinlan and Marie Egerton