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Life in a Hospice: The Back Story

A friend asked me recently why I wrote Life in a Hospice, which explores the joys and challenges of working in a hospice from the viewpoint of nurses, doctors, managers and others in their own words.

The answer is simple. Back in the early 1990s, I had a close friend who died from AIDS, who was himself an AIDS nurse. This had made me very interested in the complex lives of people facing death, as well as those looking after them. After he died, a chaplain friend of his took me to a hospice, as he was doing an errand (but I suspected he wanted me to see it) and I was immediately drawn to the place.

Hospices tend to be places of great tranquillity and calm and I felt yes, I want to be part of a place like this. I applied to work as a volunteer in a local hospice and ended up doing so for four years. It was very satisfying – albeit sometimes demanding – work. But I was there only one afternoon a week. I was intrigued by all the regular staff whose day-to-day job was turning up to work with people who were dying.

As I was a writer, I felt this would be a good topic for a book. My books were all based on in-depth interviews, using the actual words of the people interviewed to tell readers what it ‘felt like’ to be them. I set about looking for two hospices who would agree to be part of this research and found two without much difficulty.

I interviewed roughly fifteen people in each hospice, some of whom volunteered and others were selected by the director. There were nurses and healthcare assistants, doctors, chaplains, various managers and even a very reflective chef. Everyone was more than happy to talk, especially as I promised anonymity (and sometimes changed minor details in the book to avoid identification).

Tony Benn, who was interested in hospice care, agreed to write a Foreword – and the rest is history.

The book was initially published in 2007 and was ‘Highly Commended’ by the British Medical Association. In 2017, I took back the rights and re-published it as both a paperback and e-book at a much reduced price.

You can read more about this book on my website and see reviews on Amazon at  It is also available on other electronic readers (see