Staying at St Christopher’s

What can I expect from the Inpatient Unit?

St Christopher’s inpatient unit in Sydenham, south east London, provides skilled and compassionate specialist care to patients with any life limiting illness. We have 48 beds arranged over four wards. People come in to the inpatient unit for a variety of reasons.  You may need help to control difficult symptoms such as pain or breathlessness, with emotional and family support, or end of life care.

What is the inpatient unit like?

The inpatient unit has a mixture of single rooms with their own toilet and four bedded bays. These are arranged in four bright wards, one on each floor of the main building. You will be allocated a single room or bed in a bay according to your nursing needs, preference and bed availability. Each bed has a telephone (for which a phone card can be purchased on site) and TV, and arrangements can be made to use the Internet.

The wards are staffed by specialist nurses, who work as part of a multi-professional team. If you wish, you can take part in groups and therapies in the Anniversary Centre.  If you cannot leave your bed, staff will visit you. There are a number of different sorts of activities that you can take part in alone or with others: music therapy, complementary therapies, digital art, painting, pottery and more. You are welcome to borrow books from a trolley that comes round the wards.

How long can I expect to remain an inpatient?

This varies from patient to patient. St Christopher’s is not a long stay unit. If you come to us as an inpatient, we will review your care regularly. Sometimes patients still need nursing care, but not the high level of specialist care that the hospice provides. If this happens, we will, in consultation with you and your carers, arrange for you to be transferred to a care home, or return to your own home with appropriate support.

What do I need to bring?

You will need to bring your own toiletries, nightwear, day clothes and slippers.  There are individual wardrobes for your belongings. We provide towels, but cannot do your personal laundry for you, so please ask your relatives or friends to do this. Do not bring in valuables or a large amount of money. Bedside cabinets are lockable but we cannot take responsibility for items that go missing. There is a small safe on each ward for money and valuables.

Please bring in with you the medicines that you are taking and if possible, your most recent GP repeat prescription request. This helps us to make quite sure that we have an up to date view of your medicines and also saves wasting the medicines you already have as once they have been checked, you will normally be able to continue to take them on the ward.

St Christopher’s has a pharmacy service so we will make sure that you have all the medicines that you need whilst you are an inpatient and when you go out on visits or go home. Medicines are supplied free of charge in the same way as in hospitals.

If you are taking any unusual medicines or products that are not available on prescription – for example health food supplements – we may ask you to supply these yourself. If there are any problems with your medicines, our pharmacist will be available to help.

What sort of things can I buy?

The Anniversary Centre sells a small range of greetings cards and gifts. A trolley is brought to the wards every morning offering newspapers, toiletries and sweets and drinks for sale.

When can my visitors come?

We welcome visitors from 8am until 10pm. Visitors are able to stay the night by the patient’s bedside by arrangement with the nurses. Our reception staff also have a list of local hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Children are very welcome to visit. There are some toys on each ward and in the Anniversary Centre. Younger children must be supervised, especially in the gardens where there are large fishponds.

Pets are also welcome to visit. Please speak to the nurses to arrange this.

What about meals?

Breakfast is served from 8am, lunch at 12.30pm, and the evening meal is from 5.30pm. You can have hot drinks throughout the day, and alcoholic and soft drinks are usually served before the evening meal. We have a varied and changing menu and we are happy to accommodate any particular preferences if possible. If you are on a special diet, please tell us so that we can prepare a meal that suits you. We work closely with a dietician, who can also advise you.

Can I smoke?

The hospice has a no smoking policy.  This means that staff, relatives and visitors cannot smoke anywhere in the hospice building or grounds.  Patients who smoke may do so in a designated area in the garden.

Can we use the gardens?

All the gardens are open to patients and visitors, and you can get around them in a wheelchair or a bed. The Garden Pavilion building offers a sheltered space to enjoy the gardens, and has facilities for refreshments and a toilet.

What if English is not my first language?

We have access to an interpreting service, and encourage you and your family to use it to make it easier for you to tell us what you need and how we can help you. Please ask the Admissions Office or one of the nurses to arrange it.

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