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St Barnabas House is an independent charitable hospice located in Worthing, West Sussex, first opened in 1973. On this page you can read the full history of the hospice, from our formative years, right through to the present day.
St Barnabas House was the inspiration of local anaesthetist Dr Francis Gusterson and was one of the first three hospices providing end-of-life care to be built in Britain. The hospice was opened on 1 January 1973.
Dr Raymond Franks first proposed the idea of a terminal home for local cancer patients after spotting the significance of the high number of cancer deaths in the Worthing area occurring at home or in commercial nursing homes during the mid-1960s.
At the same time the trustees of the Worthing Remembrance Fund were finding it difficult to allocate gifts they were receiving meaningfully, and in 1966 they contacted Dr Gusterson to propose that he take on chairmanship of an appeal to build a home in Worthing.
A 12-strong committee, with Burnham Roe as Treasurer, was formed and an appeal to raise £100,000 (over £1.5 million today) was officially launched at a public meeting on Friday 29 March 1968. It was named the St Barnabas’ Appeal after the Saint of Consolation who sold all of his lands to give money to the church of Antioch when they were in great need.
In 1968 St Barnabas was registered as a charity and in the same year the committee invited the Duke of Norfolk to become President. There are still close ties with the family today with Lord Henry, Earl of Arundel becoming the new President of the charity in 2016.
Work started on building the hospice at a site on Columbia Drive, Durrington, on Wednesday 8 December 1971, the cost of the project eventually rising to £183,107.
On Monday 1 January 1973 the first patients were admitted, however it was not until Monday 18 June 1973 that the official opening ceremony took place under the patronage of the Duchess of Roxburghe, chairman of the National Society for Cancer Relief.
Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, became President in 1975 after the passing of Duke Bernard and she was succeeded by her daughter Lady Sarah Clutton in 1995. Dr Gusterson, who served as medical director from July 1972, retired on 31 January 1981, immediately becoming Vice-President. Later that year he died peacefully in his sleep.
In 1983 an education service commenced, providing training in palliative care and related issues to external healthcare professionals. A coordinated voluntary service was introduced in the same year with the aim of winning the support of more volunteers to help in roles appropriate to their skills and interests.
On Friday 29 November 1985, full day care facilities were launched in the enlarged Day Room, opened by Her Royal Highness, Princess Diana of Wales. Two years later a Home Care service for patients was introduced. Over time these services developed into the Day Hospice and Hospice at Home services provided by the hospice today.
The charity’s name was changed in 1987 from St Barnabas Nursing Home to St Barnabas Hospice to reflect the true nature of the charity at a time when the work of hospices was becoming more widely known.
The first St Barnabas charity shop in Rowlands Road, Worthing, was officially opened by the Mayor of Worthing, Councillor John Cotton, in January 1989. This was followed by the opening of further shops across West Sussex during the 1990s.
In 2005, care services were expanded to patients with diseases other than cancer. Around the same time there were questions about whether the hospice building, riddled with plumbing problems, leaks and wiring issues, was still fit for purpose.
Following extensive negotiations, a site on Titnore Lane was identified as a suitable location for a new St Barnabas House and an offer was accepted in 2007. Financial prudence and good management made it possible for the charity to raise the funds needed to build the new state of the art hospice, and construction commenced in 2009.
On Thursday 3 March 2011 a symbolic walk took place as 38 staff members and volunteers walked from the old hospice to the new one. After many years of planning and support from the local community, the new hospice officially opened its doors on Wednesday 9th March.
In 2012, the Community Palliative Care Team extended its service to seven days a week in order to meet increasing demand and a brand new Hospice at Home service was launched to enable patients to have end of life care in their own home if that is their wish.
In 2014 the Hospice Outreach Project, a specially adapted vehicle, was introduced to travel around the local area to help answer the questions and ease the worries of those affected by life-limiting illnesses and to bring information about the hospice’s services to the community. This was initially funded by the Department of Health.
St Barnabas House embarked on an exciting new era in 2016 by investing in four new specialist nurses to provide care for people with other end-stage conditions, enabling us to reach more local people with non-cancer related illnesses.
We also expanded our Voluntary Services and Education Team, as well as developing a new Therapy Team which provides rehabilitative palliative care for our patients. Read more about these developments on our Hospice Care Pioneers page.
To read the history of our children’s hospice, visit our Chestnut Tree House website.