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18th May 2020

Heritage stories: Dr Peter Kennedy

In 1979 Dr Peter Kennedy was a consultant physician in respiratory diseases working at the now closed Myland Hospital, alongside ward sister Deidre Allen.

They had a shared belief that end of life care for their patients needed to be improved:
Dr Peter Kennedy

 After attending a course on the new discipline of care in a hospice setting, Deidre suggested there should be a public meeting.

It was called for 6th July 1979 at the Town Hall, Colchester.

Deidre and I spoke, along with Dr George Rhys-Lewis from the radiotherapy department in Essex County Hospital, to a full capacity audience. We were amazed that so many people came to this meeting!

We needed to raise funds and the response was enthusiastic because people supported the idea of a hospice. Many came forward in order to form a steering committee and an appeal was launched to raise money.

That was great for us because it meant there were well intentioned, civic minded people in the community who were prepared to do the hard work that was necessary. They worked valiantly, raised the funds.

There was a lot of fear about death but certainly the hospice movement has made huge strides, and I think the public are better aware and better educated about health matters. I’m sure there is still concern but my impression is that the Hospice staff are here to dispel those illusions, and to look after people and make them comfortable and peaceful. The atmosphere of St Helena Hospice is certainly not the atmosphere of the medical ward.

Although Deidre never had the opportunity to work at St Helena Hospice, she was an important figure in its history. I was later invited to be the honorary consultant physician.

It was a great pleasure and an honour to play a small part. What a magnificent institution it is. It’s made so much difference to the lives of people in north east Essex and long may it continue to do so.

St Helena Hospice Heritage Stories project supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

National Lottery Heritage Fund

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