“THE Martlets is not just about being a place where people come to die. It is about helping people to live well.”

Hospice chief executive Imelda Glackin is eager to emphasise exactly what it is that the Martlets has to offer as it marks its 18th year.

The general view of a hospice is that it is somewhere where people with terminal cancer go to when they are about to pass on.

Although that is obviously a feature of the Martlets’s work, there is much more to it than that.

The Martlets provides inpatient and day care as well as a hospice at home service so people can get the care and support they need in their own homes.

About a fifth of its patients do not have cancer but have long term health conditions including heart, kidney or lung disease or neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease or dementia.

These patients may not be cured but can live for many years and the hospice is on hand to give them the help and support they need to live a good life.

The hospice in Wayfield Avenue, Hove, is an airy and welcoming well-lit modern building, where the team of staff and volunteers work to ensure their patients get whatever they need.

It immediately distances itself from the more usual hospital setting with the presence of the hospice cat called Misty, who turned up several years ago and never left.

Staff nurse Rachel Hallis was busy keeping an eye on the inpatients using the hospice’s 18 beds on the afternoon of The Argus's visit.

Her shift began with a conference at 7.30am when there is a handover from night staff and decisions made as to which nurse will be looking after which patient.

Each patient is spoken to individually and given any drugs or medication they need before a conference at 9am between Ms Hallis, doctors, physiotherapists, a consultant and a discharge co-ordinator decide the specific treatment or care patients may need that day.

In the meantime nurses are helping patients with basic tasks such as going to the toilet, having a shower or bath and having a meal.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all freshly made on the hospice premises and breakfast can include a full English if that is what the patient wants.

Other patients may choose to eat a snack at the hospice’s cafe by the main reception while others who are well enough can go out for a meal with relatives or friends if they prefer.

The afternoon is usually set aside for various activities, which are attended by the hospice’s day patients as well.

This afternoon it was T’ai chi massage and reflexology.

On the ward, war hero Walter Morris, 95, is preparing to go home the next day after a short stay at the hospice.

He is visited by his daughter Dawn Corney, 68, from Lincolnshire, and daughter in law Julie Morris, from Upper Beeding.

Mr Morris has heart failure and breathing problems but the team have managed to stabilise him and build up his strength so he is able to return to his home of 50 years, in Hangleton.

The Martlets helped look after Mr Morris’s wife Ethel for three years after she was treated for breast cancer and up until her death at the age of 90 in December 2011.

This included support from the Martlets Care Agency, a private care service run by the Martlets, with profits ploughed back into the hospice itself.

Mr Morris was doing well but developed heart failure and has been supported by the hospice’s private agency Martlets Care for the last year.

More recently he became very poorly so the team arranged for him to have 24-hour care at home before bringing him into the hospice to help him with his breathing and heart problems.

His daughter in law Julie said: “They have been brilliant in helping him get well enough to be able to get back home because that is what he really wants to do. We are so grateful.”

There is no sign of the pace of life slowing at the hospice as the day progresses, with a constant stream of visitors.

The hospice is generally relaxed about visiting times and patients can be up and about at any time of the day or night.

Staff nurse Rachel Hallis said: “Some patients, because of their illness or medication may be unable to sleep so will be up and about at about 2am in the morning and that is fine. They do whatever suits them. If they want a Jacuzzi bath at that time they can have it.

“It means the hospice is a 24 hour operation. Patients can be up and down and there is no typical day.”

Staff are also willing to go the extra mile to let patients have what they need.

Ms Hallis said: “We’ve thrown parties and arranged marriages. Sometimes we might do a quick little thing like painting a patient’s nails for them or help them wash their hair.

“We let their pets come in to stay sometimes as we know animals are important to people.

“One lady had her greyhound here for a while and it even slept on her bed.

“We have been known to take a dog for a quick walk when we’ve needed to as well.

“It’s usually dogs but there have been cats and a rabbit and once even a little pony came in.”

The hospice is also on hand to help patients and relatives prepare themselves when they are reaching their final weeks and days.

Bereavement counselling and support is available, along with a chaplaincy team, and everything is done to ensure the patient can die where they wish.

Chief executive Imelda Glackin is spreading the message about the hospice’s vital work for people across Brighton and Hove and surrounding areas.

She said: “We are working to change public perception in that it is not just about dying – it is about palliative care and end of life care.”

The Martlets is not part of the NHS and so receives a limited amount of government funding.

It needs to raise £11,000 a day to meet the £5.4m a year cost of running its services, including paying its 225 staff.

It has a weekly lottery, 10 shops and a furniture warehouse and also runs a house clearance service and eBay and online book sales.

It also runs its own fundraising events such as the Martlets Midnight Walk and is involved with others such as the Brighton Marathon.

The hospice relies on its 500 volunteers who carry out a range of tasks including helping at the hospice itself alongside staff and patients, helping out with day services, supporting fundraising events and working in charity shops.

To mark its 18th birthday the Martlets is taking part in Grow Your Tenner, an annual match funding campaign run by Localgiving which runs until November 18.

During the campaign Localgiving will match all online donations up to £10, and monthly donations up to £10 per month for three months.

The hospice is hoping to reach a maximum of £10,000 of match funding.

To donate visit localgiving.com/martletshospice.