The East London Mosque, Richard House Hospice and St Joseph’s Children’s Hospice came together for the first time, in a joint conference last week to better understand the needs and preferences around people dying as part of the National Dying Awareness Week. The conference took place at the London Muslim Centre on the 19 May 2011.

Distinguished panellists included chair of the programme Robin Knowles CBE QC, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari chairman of the East London Mosque (ELM), Shaykh Abdul Qayum Chief Imam ELM, Michael Kerrin Chief Exec St. Joseph’s, Peter Ellis Chief Exec Richard House, Dr Heather Richardson clinical director of St. Joseph’s and clinical lead of Help the Hospices, Rabbi Markus Lange chaplain at the Marie Curie Hospice, Rt Rev John Armitage, Elizabeth Ellis Social Action for Health and Harry Singh a young person from Richard House.

The event attracted a diverse range of experts, professionals and leaders in the field of care and health. The conference undertook the task to discuss and share the difficulties, in order to address issues with solutions surrounding the subject of dying, death and terminal illness, including the religious sensitivities and needs of patients.

Michael Kerin, Chief Executive of St. Joseph’s said: “We really welcome this opportunity for this conference today. It is a chance to make sure we get end of life care right for everyone here in East London. We have two goals: to ensure that we and other service providers understand the needs of the population and to ensure that everyone in the local community understands what is available to them. We want people to know what we do.”

Peter Ellis, Chief Executive of Richard House Children’s Hospice said: “It is fantastic to see such a range of people and organisations wanting to gather to debate this most profound subject of death and dying. I hope this is the beginning of an ongoing conversation across North East London so we can improve our ability to deliver better end of life care for our richly diverse community.”

Harry Singh, 24 and a young adult at Richard House Children’s Hospice, spoke about his experiences of using a hospice and what it meant to him: “People are often apprehensive about hospices because of the stereotypes that are associated with them. The most important thing is that Richard House is always there to support you and there is always someone there to help. It includes your family and your siblings. As a young person I want to be able to do everything that a normal young adult would do. I want to be able to grow on my own – Richard House gives me the freedom to do just this.”

Shaykh Abdul Qayum mentioned: “In a time where people are so focused on the material world they forget the most inevitable factor that all things living share, death. So let us acknowledge and understand death better, and ensure to comfort those who only want to be heard and reassured.”

The evening slowly came to a close, after diverse pools of questions were asked by guests to the panel. Robin Knowles CBE QC, closed up on the evening’s discussion, “I am encouraged by the wide range of people present today who can recognise the importance of working together for the common good. This day should mark a continued dialogue that drives us forward in our quest to support communities. I hope you all feel as motivated as I do.”


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