Sir Oliver Heald MP relaunches Ernest Gardiner Centre

On Friday 24th March Sir Oliver Heald MP for North East Hertfordshire officially reopened the Ernest Gardiner Centre in Letchworth Garden City. 

members of the Garden House Hospice Care Care team, patients, Pam Burn (ex-Chair of the Heritage Foundation), Steve Mellish (Chair of Garden House Hospice Care), Graham Fisher (CEO Heritage Foundation), Gareth Hawkins (Chair Heritage Foundation) and Sir Oliver Heald MP.

The centre was set up in 1985 as a community facility. Over the years it was very active; the local community donated money to buy equipment and keep services running. The Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation operated the service. Over the years, the number of people using the service reduced, and it became clear that much of the work was being duplicated by Garden House Hospice Care.  It was decided in 2019 that the Foundation would gift the building to the hospice – and the Covid-19 pandemic became was the catalyst to start this process. The situation forced the Foundation to close down the existing service and, after a short stint as a vaccination centre, the centre was gifted to Garden House Hospice Care and was relaunched this week.

Steve Mellish is Chair of Garden House Hospice Care.  He said: “As a care provider, we are looking constantly at how we can expand our reach and provide more services to those that need it. Focussing not only on end of life care, but much earlier in our patients from diagnosis. The Ernest Gardiner Centre provides us with the ability to facilitate a wide range of services that patients much earlier in their diagnosis can come and benefit from to help them psychologically, physically and mentally in terms of dealing with their situation and making the most of whatever time they have left.  The centre provides us and the community the ability to provide that within a nice, welcoming comfortable environment which is what our Community Hubs are for.”  

The centre operates two community hubs on Fridays at the Ernest Gardiner Centre.  Carla Pilsworth is Director of Income Generation at Garden House Hospice Care – she said: “Our community hubs are where we invite people from the community who aren’t our typical patient in the hospice. They may have a palliative or terminal diagnosis, they may be frail or have a range of things happening that they need support for – but not end of life care. The come to the hub and take part in exercise, horticulture, socializing and just feel part of something that we can offer. We have around 50 people at each session – something we weren’t able to offer before we had this space. Also we found that before we had this space there was still reluctance to come into the hospice for the hubs – there was a misconception that hospices are just for end of life care – but we are there for so much more. This centre will help us to dispel the myths.  The Ernest Gardiner Centre was built for the local community and we intend to keep it that way – creating a community service that people can enjoy and receive good care from.”

Graham Fisher, Chief Executive at the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation explains how the Foundation will remain a part of the centre’s journey: “Improving Wellbeing is one of our charitable objectives, and one which took the largest cut during the pandemic. We’re pleased to be funding the Community Hubs as well as gifting the building to Garden House Hospice Care – and working in partnership with the hospice team we’re looking at what more we can do to tackle isolation and improve physical wellbeing.”

You can find out more about The Ernest Gardiner Centre and the Community Hubs available at