When Barbara Tingley clocked up 30 years of being a Healthcare Assistant at St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne, her colleagues jumped at the chance to organise a surprise party for their popular colleague.

‘I thought they were up to something when they asked me to come in on my day off, but I never imagined they’d throw a party with lovely speeches, a long service award made of glass, and other gifts and flowers,’ Barbara said.

Barbara, 70, is the first of three generations to work at the hospice, which provides care and support for people with life-limiting illnesses. Daughter Lauren and granddaughter Charlie both work as Care at Home Nurses in the Community Team, and husband Chris volunteers on the Inpatient Unit.

Barbara began her career at All Saint’s Hospital in the Meads areas of Eastbourne on the geriatric ward before moving to the Belmont Nursing Home. She joined St Wilfrid’s at the end of 1993 as a Healthcare Assistant on the Inpatient Unit, when the hospice was still operating from a house in Mill Gap Road.

She said: ‘I started working at the hospice after I lost my dad. The hospice Care at Home Team looked after him and I thought they were really good. I was working in a nursing home at that time but when a job came up at the hospice, I applied.

‘I’m responsible for the daily care of patients, making sure they’re comfortable and all their needs are met. I also look after relatives and make sure they have all the information they need. When patients and their relatives first come in here, they can be quite scared, so I help reassure them,’ Barbara said.

Her favourite part of the job is having close contact with patients and building relationships with them. ‘I love hearing their stories and they love telling you about their life. You meet all sorts of different people. I’ll always remember the first person I looked after. It was a gentleman whose wife is now a volunteer at the hospice, and I spent a lot of time with them.

‘You connect with people, and you know you’re contributing to giving them the best end of life care that they can have. It’s the last thing that you can do for somebody who is not going to get better,’ Barbara said.

The biggest change Barbara has seen during her 30 years was when the hospice moved from an old residential property to the current purpose-built site. ‘The house could only accommodate six patients at a time, and it felt like going into someone’s home. The house was small, so we got to know everybody who came in. We had to move because we needed more beds and more space, but it was a bit of a shock to start with because it was the complete opposite. I soon got used to Broadwater Way though and we’ve been here for 10 years now.’

Ruth Bacon, St Wilfrid’s Associate Director for Clinical Services, said: ‘Barbara has a very big heart and is always on the side of the patient. She always wants the best for them and their families. When it comes to new staff joining, Barbara is always happy to share her wealth of experience and take them under her wing. She’s part of the St Wilfrid’s family and has made us part of hers.’

Barbara hopes to be at the hospice for a few years yet. She said: ‘It’s not a chore to come to work and that’s why I’m still working past retirement. I’ll know when it’s time to go but it will be a sad day as it’s been a part of my life for so long.’