THE chief executive of one of the region’s most-loved charities has spoken of his vision for the future of caring for the sick.

St Peter’s Hospice boss Simon Caraffi says the number of people who will need the leading hospice and home care charity’s help in coming years is set to increase dramatically.

“The number of people and the age to which they are going to live is growing at a significant rate,” said Mr Caraffi, from the hospice’s modern and tranquil setting in Brentry, Bristol. “What that means is we are just not going to be able to deal with everything on the site here.

“We have to be able to go out and help in the community.”

St Peter’s, which is marking its 35th anniversary of working with terminally ill patients and their families in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath this year, already has four community nurse teams including one based in Yate.

“The conventional wisdom is that most people want to stay at home,” added Mr Caraffi, who has been in the job a year. “Last year our community nurses made 7,875 visits and often they make regular visits to a patient an are unlikely to stay for less than half and hour.

“We are trying to expand this service and get them more qualified so they can do more in the home. We have also imposed a target of increasing care hours by 20 per cent this year and 10 pre cent every year for the next five. Obviously that is going to cost more money.”

The charity needs to raise £7million a year to fund its services, which including seeing 6,000 patients in the community, running a day service at the hospice and caring for patients at the 18 beds it provides. “We have budgeted for a deficit this year to make those increases and of course costs are increasing,” he added. “The more money we can raise the more we can spend so the support of the public is essential. We are hugely touched by the fact that we get really brilliant support.

“And we need people to understand the demand is there and it is growing. We will do as much as we can with the resources we have but the more successful we are at fundraising the more we will do.”

The hospice, which opened in Brentry 14 years ago, has a rehabilitation room, sanctuary, family room, in-patient ward where fresh flowers are brought with every meal and its own medical team. Funding has been provided for a new garden room to provide music and art therapy for patients.

A day centre runs 12-week courses for patients not yet ready for round-the-clock care but who need to be prepared to deal with their terminal illness.

“There is a real stigma towards hospices and our courses help break that down before patients need our full services,” said Chris Benson, day services manager. “Most of them actually find it a very positive place and at the end of a 12-week course they don’t want to leave.”

She added: “We can provide support and advice on managing medicines, sleeping, breathlessness, nutrition, skin care and psychology therapists but patients can do more for each other. They are the ones living through it and quite often people become friends on our courses and keep in touch.”