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“The earlier we get to know people when their life is changing, the more impact we can have…” - that’s the message from Nigel Hartley, our Chief Executive.

“Think about it now, plan for it and make sure people know,” he says, "From my 35 years of experience, illness comes unexpectedly, and death comes unexpectedly. 

“We think death is going to happen way into the future, and if we don’t think about it, it will never happen.”  

Nigel, considered a world leader in end-of-life care, spoke in an interview with Harriet Hadfield, host of The Island Stories Podcast series.  

The podcast, now in its second series, is produced by Alex Warren and has had more 3,500 listens since it launched last year. 

In the latest episode, he talks about changing the language we use around death and dying, for example avoiding phrases like “We lost your mother” as it can cause confusion and adds to the embarrassment society feels tackling the subject. 

And urges people to complete an ‘Advance Care Plan’ - whatever your age - answering questions such as plans for your pets, if you’d like to be cremated or who you would like with you when you die. 

On any one day, there are around 3,000 people across Southampton and large parts of Hampshire, and on the Island, in the care of Mountbatten, most of whom are being cared for at home, as well as in the hospice buildings in West End, Southampton, and Newport, Isle of Wight.  

Mountbatten has seen a 200% increase in need since pre-covid times, and we expect that to rise another 40% in the next 18 months to four years. 

In his interview, Nigel highlights how the Isle of Wight’s demographics - one in six households here are a single person aged 65+ - make it a test case in the United Kingdom.

“It’s an older population, and an outlier in the UK, if we can get it right on the Island, people in the UK are going to be very interested.”

“People come to the Island to retire so we are almost 15 years ahead of the rest of the UK… What we can’t do is put our heads in the sand and ignore that. Because what’s happening here is coming to a place near you.”

Nigel grew up in North Wales and had a promising career as a concert pianist until his hand was shut in a car door. 

In the 1980s, he says the death of a close friend with AIDS inspired him to work in end-of-life care, and still drives him today. 

“Watching someone die in a way they should never have to… that’s what gets me up in the mornings still and it’s why everyone’s death touches me… that’s what drives me still.” 

On his own death, Nigel says: “I think after all these years, I’m still scared of dying, of course, I am - I’m a human being - but I do think that on a good day, I might be able to manage it.”