After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, it became clear that many sick and vulnerable people in the region had not been receiving the care they needed. Those that received a terminal diagnosis were mostly sent home to die, usually without pain relief or specialist support. The hospice concept did not exist.
When Hospices of Hope’s founder witnessed people’s suffering, he felt he could use his own experience of setting up a hospice in the UK to pioneer palliative care in Romania. So in 1992, he organised a palliative care conference in Brasov, involving local authorities, health services and civil society. It generated huge interest and soon after, the first Anglo-Romanian charity, Hospice Casa Sperantei, was registered.
The aim has always been to make the project self-sustainable and now, palliative care is an integrated part of the Romanian medical system, with more than 100 services operating throughout the country and most funds raised in-country. In 2019 the Romanian government invited Hospices of Hope to contribute to a national plan for palliative care, and now plans to establish services in all counties where there are currently none.
In time, it became clear that surrounding countries also lacked palliative care services, and so Hospices of Hope expanded its work to Serbia, Moldova, Albania, Greece, and, more recently, Ukraine. In all these countries, the charity began by undertaking thorough research of the situation, involving consultations with medical staff, authorities and patients/family members, identifying people to form a local charity board, contacting the Ministry of Health and other relevant institutions, planning the training of the initial service staff by British medical experts and raising funds in the UK to implement the services.
Over the past 30 years, Hospices of Hope has raised more than £40m to develop hospice care in Southeast Europe and has facilitated care for more than 80,000 patients, plus their family members, in the region. More than 25,000 local staff have been trained.
Charity Awards judge Martin Edwards said it was a “textbook example” of training local people to develop skills so that the service would be sustainable after the initial investment.
“It’s primarily about exporting skills, where the UK is the world leader – the UK had the world’s first adult hospice, the world’s first children’s hospice and it remains far and away the biggest provider of palliative care. It just doesn’t exist as a specialism in most other countries,” he said.
CC Reg no. 1088475