Hospice’s medical director: ‘You help patients live their lives to the fullest’

Dr Sarah Bell, Garden House Hospice Care's medical director. Picture: GHHC

Dr Sarah Bell, Garden House Hospice Care's medical director. Picture: GHHC - Credit: Archant

It takes a very special person to be involved in palliative care, and vicar’s wife Sarah Bell has all the right attributes.


The Garden House Hospice Care medical director has wanted to be a doctor since she was four.

“Maybe because I was close to my father and he was a professor of medicine at Hammersmith Hospital,” she muses.

And the mother-of-two was always drawn to end-of-life treatment, even though she did brilliantly in gynaecology at the Royal Free in London where she trained.

“I decided against following a specialist or GP route,” said Sarah, speaking during Hospice Care Week which started on Monday and runs until Sunday.

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“I wanted to make people feel better immediately and it seemed that helping ease the pain of those with life-limiting illnesses was the right choice for me.

“In a hospice you get to know patients and their families, and help them live their lives to the fullest.”

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Letchworth-based Garden House Hospice Care was started by the community and serves the people of North Herts, Stevenage, Royston and surrounding villages.

It cares for adults with any life-limiting conditions, not just those suffering from cancer.

Its 12-bed unit is used for symptom control, end-of-life and respite care.

The Hawthorne Centre – named after its former president and late Yes Minister actor Sir Nigel Hawthorne – offers a huge range of day services while Hospice at Home provides nursing care in people’s homes.

Sarah was working at Edenhall Hospice in Hampstead, now known as Marie Curie Hampstead, when she met its chaplain – a young Canadian called Terrance Bell.

“We started off as friends,” she smiles.

“But it wasn’t long before he whisked her off to his native Toronto and proposed at the top of the CN Tower. They were married in 2004 and have two sons.

The Bells moved to Offley in 2006 when Terrance was appointed vicar of King’s Walden and Offley with Lilley, and at first found village life very quiet.

Sarah said: “Now living in the country is like nirvana. It’s so friendly, so healthy, so safe.”

She gets involved in Messy Church and Sunday school – their boys go to St Mary Magdalene’s in Offley – and she manages her busy life by juggling her job, child care and parish duties.

“I don’t work full time and I have the support of an amazing husband,” she said.

“Christianity is about helping other people and my faith is fundamental to the choices I have made in my life.”

Garden House has a wonderful and growing team of more than 500 volunteers who are all passionate about their work and totally committed – but new volunteers are always welcome.

The hospice costs almost £3.5 million a year to run, much of which comes from donations.

For more information visit www.ghhospicecare.org.uk.

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