A much-loved community-based centre in St Ann’s Tottenham has been refurbished and re-opened last week as a facility dedicated to the wellbeing and experience of patients living with thalassaemia, sickle cell disorder, and other red cell conditions.
The George Marsh Centre, in the grounds of St Ann’s Hospital, has been used by patients with sickle cell disorder since it first opened in 1989, and originally housed both clinical and support services. It was founded by Dr George Marsh, in response to him seeing the Haringey Sickle Cell Support Group locked out of their office in Wood Green, and huddled in the rain.
Dr Marsh, who went on to become a leading figure in caring for patients with haemoglobin disorders, felt a rush of sympathy and acknowledged things needed to change. He raised the necessary funds and began to plan a health and community centre for the many patients with sickle cell and thalassaemia under his care. Sadly, Dr Marsh passed away before the centre was built and opened in 1989. It is called the George Marsh Centre in his memory.
As haematology medicine advanced over the past four decades, the George Marsh Centre changed to become a meeting space, and then was destined for closure to enable investment in other spaces locally, which would offer the latest in clinical care including automated red cell exchange.
"Too valuable to close" - patients
Local patients who live with sickle cell disorder, thalassaemia and other red cell conditions, as well as their representatives and stakeholders told North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust (North Mid) which runs the George Marsh Centre, that it was too valuable a facility to close down.
After extensive discussions with patient groups, as well as hearing from individual patients, North Mid identified a way to keep the George Marsh Centre available to the local community, while still enabling the investment in other facilities that can provide the best level of modern clinical care.
£150,000 refurb and facelift
Since Spring 2022, the George Marsh Centre has undergone a £150,000 ‘facelift’ to ensure it can offer flexible multi-purpose spaces for patients impacted by sickle cell disorder and thalassaemia, including rooms for counselling, exercise classes, massage and complementary therapies, as well a library and space for learning sessions, peer support meetings, and relaxation.
Now North Mid is encouraging patients with sickle cell and thalassaemia to help shape the George Marsh Centre into a facility that really meets their holistic wellbeing needs.
North Mid’s Chief Executive Dr Nnenna Osuji said:
“North Mid provides healthcare for more than 500 patients living with sickle cell disorder, thalassaemia and other red cell conditions, which together affect a high proportion of our local community. It is vital that we provide the absolute highest standard of care for these patients, who are living experts in how they experience their conditions, and that we support them to live their best lives. This is how we will live up to the legacy of Dr Marsh himself.
“Since I joined North Mid as Chief Executive in summer 2021, I have personally and professionally committed to ensuring our haematology improvement plans are underpinned by listening to what patients, their families, and advocates, tell us is important to them, and that we take action on what we hear. While we cannot always include every service – we must follow the best standards in clinical practice, for example – I can assure every patient that we will use the refurbished George Marsh Centre to offer a package of support options focused on our patients’ wider wellbeing, which I hope will include something for everyone.
Help us shape the centre and its activities
“For any facility, but particularly one that needs for its users to feel they have a genuine say in what it offers, it is important that we start with a manageable offering of service, and then grow as we go forward. So we want our patients, their families, and other people who are impacted by thalassaemia and sickle cell disorder to tell us how they want the George Marsh Centre to grow and develop, so that it really feels part of the community.
“Our new nurse consultant for haematology, Sekayi Tangayi, and our dedicated team of nursing, medical, therapy and support staff are absolutely committed to working with patients and their friends and family, to ensure that our services help people not only when they are sick, but also to manage their condition and stay healthy. This is where the George Marsh Centre will really be influential, as we want it to offer services that are preventative and holistic. Please tell us what you want it to offer, and we will include everything safe and sustainable.”