PATIENTS at a Sussex hospice destroyed by fire last July have finally started to move back into the building this week – as the £1 million fundraising target has also been reached.

The blaze at St Michael’s Hospice in St Leonards on Sea caused two deaths and destroyed a significant part of the building.

Most of the hospice in Upper Maze Hill has remained closed, although administrative staff returned to the upper floors last year.

The In-Patient Unit was temporarily relocated to Hastings Court nursing home in The Ridge, Hastings.

Soon after the fire, the Phoenix Appeal was launched, calling on the community to rally behind the hospice and help it carry out extensive refurbishments and improvements.

The hospice said at the time it hopes to raise the money by the end of 2016, in addition to the £10,000 it needs to generate every day to run its services.

Now it has been revealed they have reached the initial target of £1m.

Perdita Chamberlain, head of income generation, said: "We are very grateful for the many grants we have received from both local and national trusts which have enabled us to reach this total.

"Together with the donations we have received from our wonderful supporters, we are hopeful we can reach our new target of £1,250,000 by the end of 2016.

"I would like to thank you everyone who has contributed to the Phoenix Appeal and also those who continue to support St Michael’s Hospice in so many ways."

During the rebuilding project, additional work was identified to improve the building still further and to ensure the highest safety and care standards.

This additional work includes a new lift, the installation of ceiling mounted hoists in some of the patient rooms, and significant work to the hospice drainage system.

This will all further enhance visitor comfort and accessibility and ensure that patients, families, staff and volunteers alike can move more easily around the building. The total cost of these additional works will be in the region of £220,000.

Chief Executive Celia Pike-Lees said it is very pleasing news.

She said: “Local support has helped us both to continue to provide our specialist palliative care to people with life-limiting illnesses across Hastings and Rother and also, through the Phoenix Appeal, to renovate the hospice so that it can be a great asset to our community for years to come.

"We are truly grateful and could not have achieved it without the generosity of so many."

She confirmed that the newly-refurbished hospice has now re-opened to in-patients and clinical staff.

The redevelopment work has included converting the two communal wards on the ground floor which were destroyed by the fire into eight single bedrooms with en suite facilities and direct garden access.

All bedrooms have been refurbished and accessibility is improved by bringing together all patient services over the ground and first floors.