In the early 1970s young anaesthetist Dr Merton Seigleman had a vision to provide pain free and dignified care for patients with a diagnosis of cancer in their final stages of life. During his career he had seen many patients pass away in hospitals in a great deal of pain and wanted very much to help them.
He was faced with two difficulties: to find the staff and a building.
His first course of action was to arrange a meeting with the chairman of the health authority to discuss his dream. The chairman at the time was Mr Ian Woolley who agreed to a meeting.
During the meeting Dr Seigleman enthusiastically outlined his hopes and dreams, and thankfully Mr. Woolley agreed that such a place was needed.
Unfortunately there were no funds available to build new premises. Undeterred, Dr Seigleman made the hospital chief an offer: If I can find the money to build the premises, you find the personnel to run it. The deal was struck and both men went away wondering how they were going to fulfill this promise.
Public meetings were quickly organised in Blackburn with many people attending and Dr Seigleman was encouraged with the response to his ideas. Public meetings were extended to Darwen, Accrington and the Ribble Valley with again a very favourable response. More meetings were called and a committee was formed to move the dream a little closer.
Pockets of fundraising groups started shooting up in all the areas, each one of them with one aim - to build a 'hospice' for the communities of East Lancashire. Money started pouring in as the general public showed their support for the scheme.
The finance committee had put together a projected budget cost of £200,000. This of course seemed like an enormous mountain to climb but they persevered with support getting stronger and stronger. Quickly this projected figure was passed and funds still continued to flow, such was the dedication and determination of local people to have their 'hospice'.
Architect plans were drawn up, although the costs had been dramatically underestimated and now the projected cost were £700,000. Fundraisers were still working flat out to reach theirs and Dr Seigleman's dream.
On 12th May 1983, Dr Seigleman with great pride laid the foundation stone for the brand new purpose-built East Lancashire Hospice, a ten-bedded Inpatient Unit.
On the 21st June 1984, the East Lancashire Hospice first opened its doors to patients and their families, with Dr Seigleman as doctor in charge. Mr Woolley, true to his word, provided the medical staff and the first palliative care centre in East Lancashire had become a reality thanks to the people of Blackburn, Darwen, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley.
The hospice had been built by the community for the community.