I joined Hospice of the Valleys in 2010 to take up 2 very different roles – one was Clinical Services Director, but I was also the Hospices’ first ever Specialist Physiotherapist with just 1 day a week to work clinically with patients and their families.

Now, some 7 years later, I still have 2 roles, but these have changed to become CEO/CSD and I am within the last 2 weeks of my working life before I move into a new chapter entitled “retirement”.

I have worked in palliative care for over 22 years but the last 7 of these, at Hospice of the Valleys, have been particularly special. During that time I have been privileged to work with a team of highly skilled professionals and volunteers who are absolutely dedicated to delivering the very highest standard of care to people in Blaenau Gwent and there have been many changes to the service.

We now have a full-time Specialist Physiotherapist in addition to our Complementary Therapists and their work is integral to the care we provide. The expert care and advice provided by our Community Nurse Specialists has been extended to include a Hospice at Home service, with our team of Health Care Assistants available to offer overnight care and day respite for patients, their families and carers. We moved to new premises in Ebbw Vale, where it has been possible to offer patients access to dedicated day centre facilities and outpatient appointments and we have worked in partnership with the local health board to ensure that people in Blaenau Gwent have local access to inpatient hospice care via our CWTCH service at Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan.

Our expertise in education was recognised when our teaching received formal accreditation from the University of South Wales; we joined with the Alzheimer’s Society to establish a new and innovative service offering palliative and end of life care to people with dementia and the work of the Family Support Team has been outstanding in both its community focus and breadth of support – most recently establishing a training programme within local schools to help teachers and teaching assistants support bereaved children in their care.

However, beyond all this, is the very special sense of the Hospice being at the heart of the community. The support people offer by raising funds, attending events and volunteering; the welcome people extend to us by inviting us into their homes at such a vulnerable time of their lives; the feedback we receive from families who tell us “What a wonderful service you provided at such a hard and stressful time for us “- it is this close link with the community that enables us to continue our work and makes all of us proud to be able to say Hospice of the Valleys is THE Blaenau Gwent Hospice.

Thank you to everyone – patients, families, carers, colleagues, volunteers – thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be part of this wonderful team. I will never forget my very special time in the Valleys.