13th December 2023

    A message from Pilgrims Hospices on the death of Ann Robertson, founder and lifetime president

    It is with great sadness that Pilgrims Hospices shares the news that its founder and lifetime president of the charity, Ann Robertson, has died.

    Ann, who was 89 years old, died peacefully on 7 November after a short stay at the William Harvey Hospital, where she was supported by both the hospital and hospice specialist palliative care teams. She was a visionary local nurse who wanted to make a difference for the people in her community facing terminal illness. Thanks to her devotion, Pilgrims Hospices has been giving end-of-life care to our community in east Kent, for more than 40 years.

    In an interview in June 2022, Ann said, “The story of Pilgrims is not just a historical chronicle; it is a tribute to the faith of the early pioneers, the spirit of the patients and their families who inspired its inception, and the skill and dedication of the staff, volunteers, and fundraisers who have worked tirelessly to keep the ship afloat over the past 40 years. It is a positive example of a small acorn giving birth to mighty oak trees.”

    Pilgrims Hospices is Ann’s legacy, and she would be happy to know that the charity will continue to offer its end-of-life care services to everyone in east Kent who needs its support.

    Helen Bennett, CEO, said:

    “I have been privileged and proud to work with our remarkable founder, Ann, helping to shape her vision for end-of-life care for our east Kent community. When Ann welcomed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to oversee the opening of our Canterbury hospice in 1982, the possibility of opening two more hospices in Ashford and Thanet was not part of Ann’s plan. Her drive and determination very quickly proved there was a need for two further hospices, and our community came out to support us, fundraising to generate the money needed to build our Margate (1992) and Ashford (2001) hospices.”

    Karen Warden, Chair of Trustees, said:

    “On behalf of Pilgrims’ Board of Trustees, we are greatly saddened by the news of Ann’s death. Many of us have fond memories of Ann, her drive, determination, and wit. We are all proud to have been part of her vision and her remarkable achievements. She was an inspirational woman who maintained strong connections with Pilgrims and continued to be instrumental in steering the charity to achieve great things up until the end of her life. Our hearts and thoughts are with Ann’s family at this time.”


    12th November 2023

    Honouring the Legacy of Ann Robertson: Pilgrims Hospices’ Lifetime President

    In memory of Ann Robertson, who died peacefully, aged 89 years, on 7 November, 2023.  An extraordinary individual who dedicated her life to providing compassionate care for those in need, we pay tribute to her remarkable achievements as the founder and lifetime President of Pilgrims Hospices. Ann’s unwavering commitment and relentless pursuit of excellence have left an indelible mark on the organisation and the countless lives it has touched. Pilgrims Hospices celebrates her lifelong dedication and the profound impact she made in the field of hospice care.

    A Visionary Leader:
    Ann Robertson, a visionary leader, played a pivotal role in shaping the philosophy and direction of hospice care in east Kent.  The hospices were the vision of local nurse Ann, who wanted to make a difference for the people within the community facing terminal illness.  It has now been more than 40 years since she worked tirelessly to open the first Pilgrims hospice in Canterbury in 1982, drawing on the generous public and business community to help her raise funds to support hospice charity. This was followed by the hospice in Thanet in 1992, and a further facility in Ashford in 2001.

    Thanks to her devotion and the help of countless others, today there are over 400 staff and 1150 volunteers who together support thousands of people each year.

    With her profound understanding of the importance of holistic care, she spearheaded initiatives that focused not only on physical well-being but also on emotional, spiritual, and psychological support. Ann’s tireless efforts ensured that every patient received personalised care that honoured their dignity, autonomy, and individuality.

    Advocating for Quality Care:
    Under Ann’s leadership, Pilgrims Hospices emerged as a leading advocate for quality end-of-life care. Recognising the significance of a multidisciplinary approach, she worked tirelessly to integrate the expertise of doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors, spiritual care leads, therapists, and volunteers, ensuring that patients and their families received well-rounded care. Her unwavering belief in the power of compassionate companionship and active listening helped establish an environment where comfort and peace prevailed.

    Extending the Reach of Hospice Care:
    Ann’s dedication to expanding access to hospice care extended beyond Pilgrims Hospice’s walls. She actively collaborated with other organisations, policymakers, and community leaders to raise awareness about the importance of end-of-life care. Through her advocacy, numerous individuals and families found solace during life’s most challenging moments, through the services provided by Pilgrims Hospices.

    Inspiring and Empowering Others:
    Ann’s vision inspired and empowered those around her. She fostered a culture within Pilgrims Hospices that nurtured innovation, empathy, and kindness. Ann’s mentorship, guidance, and encouragement uplifted numerous healthcare providers, volunteers, and staff members to embody the values she held dear.

    Leaving a Lasting Legacy:
    In her lifetime of service, Ann Robertson’s imprint on Pilgrims Hospices is immeasurable. Her compassionate leadership and commitment to excellence continue to shape and inspire the organisation. The care and support offered to patients and their families stand as a testament to her enduring legacy.

    As we mourn the loss of Ann Robertson, we also celebrate the incredible contributions she made to the field of hospice care. Her unwavering dedication, vision, and kindness will forever be remembered by those whose lives she touched. Ann’s legacy serves as a guiding light, motivating us to continue providing compassionate care and upholding the principles so precious to her. May her soul rest in eternal peace, knowing the profound impact she made in the lives of others.


    11th May 2023

    Coronation Celebrations

    It was with great pleasure, Pilgrims Hospices sent congratulations to His Majesty King Charles III and Queen Camilla on their Coronation, which took place on Saturday 6th May 2023.

    Along with thousands of organisations across the country, Pilgrims celebrated with colleagues, volunteers, patients and their families, to wish the new King and Queen good health and strength to continue with their valuable support for charities across the UK.  We hope their roles continue to reflect the needs of people now, and in the future, while keeping the longstanding  traditions and pageantry that we treasure.

    We wanted our patients and visitors to share in the experience of the Coronation, so decked the reception areas, and corridors around the hospices with union jack bunting. Floral tributes to their Majesty’s reflected in red, white and blue, greeted people upon arrival at the hospices, in Ashford, Canterbury and Thanet.

    Staff baked cookies for a Coronation competition, took afternoon tea prepared by volunteer bakers, and the catering teams provided Coronation cupcakes for everyone throughout the celebration weekend.

    The Wellbeing team took service users art therapy sessions to the next level, with amazing regal paintings displayed across the hospice sites.

    Our services, like those of our Monarch, are also deep-rooted within the community, and whilst we’ve shared in the celebrations, we’ve also reflected on our own important values.  The selfless work of our Founder and lifelong President Ann Robertson OBE, has brought us to the point where we can care for thousands of people each year, who need end-of-life care and support.  Visionary local nurse Ann wanted to make a difference for the people in her community facing terminal illness.  Her passion to raise awareness and services, launched the charity more than 40 years ago. Thanks to her devotion, and the help of countless others, today we have almost 200 clinical staff. Together, they support thousands of people each year.

    CEO Helen Bennett said: “Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, opened the hospice in Canterbury on June 8th 1982.  We at Pilgrims’ are very proud of our royal connection, and have delighted in watching her grandson’s investiture in Westminster Abbey. Everyone at Pilgrims made an extra effort to make the celebration weekend special for our patients, visitors, and the care teams who worked tirelessly throughout the holiday weekend.”

    Pilgrims staff, volunteers, and trustees, old and new, wish to send our warmest wishes and congratulations to King Charles III and Queen Camilla on their splendid day.



    18th July 2022

    Pilgrims Hospices: Delivering care and services for 40 years

    In 2022, Pilgrims Hospices celebrate 40 years of end-of-life care for the people of east Kent. The first hospice opened in Canterbury in June 1982, followed by Thanet in 1992, celebrating its 30th anniversary year, and Ashford in 2001, celebrating its 21st year.

    That means plenty to celebrate this year!

    The hospices were the vision of one local nurse, Ann Robertson, the founder and now Pilgrims lifetime President. Ann wanted to make a difference for the people in her community facing terminal illness. Thanks to her devotion, and the help of countless others, today we have almost 200 clinical staff. Together, they support thousands of people each year.

    Pilgrims staff, volunteers, and trustees, old and new gathered on the hospice sites, not only to share in the celebrations but to enjoy the welcome return of the staff, volunteers and supporters thank you event, that hasn’t been held for two years due to COVID.

    Ann Robertson attended the Canterbury, London Road event, sharing her memories with all those present and said: “It is a great privilege to have worked with so many forward-thinking and talented individuals over the years; in the early years, we faced the day to day headache of meeting our financial needs. As the years have passed, we’ve established relationships not only with our generous public but with the business community, who help us to raise the profile of our charity and engage with the wider community.  

    “We remain the welcoming face that will guide people through some of the most difficult times, the support of the community fills our hearts with great joy as we continue our journey to help even more people each year.”

    Karen Warden, Pilgrims Chair of the Board of Trustees, shared Ann’s message with the Ashford and Thanet sites on her behalf.

    We remain the welcoming face that will guide people through some of the most difficult times, the support of the community fills our hearts with great joy as we continue our journey to help even more people each year.

    Ann Robertson, founder of Pilgrims Hospices

    The staff at the hospices are truly community heroes, with more than 2,500 people within their care each year. Over the years, Pilgrims has pioneered groundbreaking research in palliative care, embraced innovative, cutting-edge technology to improve the quality of life for patients, and delivers education and training across east Kent for many other health and social care providers.

    Pilgrims continues to grow from strength to strength, and in order to provide the much-needed care, our clinical staff are supported by an award-winning charity fundraising team, an established network of profitable retail shops, a successful local lottery, and a wealth of talents through its invaluable volunteer workforce.   

    From the very beginning, patients have been at the heart of everything Pilgrims do, and the charity will continue to grow and develop with the help of the community. 

    Helen Bennett, Pilgrims Chief Executive added: “We were delighted to have our remarkable founder and lifetime president with us for this special occasion. Ann welcomed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to oversee the opening of the Canterbury hospice in 1982 and we enjoyed sharing some of her special memories of the occasion.

    “We were also delighted to have long-standing supporters with us, some who helped establish Pilgrims with Ann, in particular Richard Davies who was a trustee for many, many years at Pilgrims. He was our Chair of the Board of Trustees and retired in 2020 during COVID. We weren’t able to say good-bye to him in a way we would have wanted to, so we were thrilled to have Richard and his wife Pauline with us.

    Richard Davies with his wife, Pauline


    “The wellbeing of my teams across the sites of Pilgrims Hospices is as important today as ever. We’ve experienced challenging times over the years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added to the daily workload for everyone, I have seen staff exceed all expectations to ensure patients are kept at the very heart of all that we do.

    “Thank you to all staff, volunteers and supporters from across the hospice sites, we can celebrate in the knowledge that everyone plays an important role within the Pilgrims family.” 

    Karen Warden, current Chair of the Board of Trustees, who joined the Board in 2018 also shared the events with Pilgrims staff and volunteers, she added: “It gives me enormous pleasure, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, to be able to thank everyone who gives so freely of their time and energy to support all that we do. The events on all three sites, are not only to celebrate our respective anniversaries of providing expert care, but to acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable and unwavering commitment our staff and friends make to Pilgrims Hospices.

    “Staff, volunteers, fundraisers, donors, businesses and sponsors all play a part in the delivery and dedication of outstanding care and specialist support to patients and their families, friends and carers. Pilgrims is often likened to a family and I can think of no better analogy.  

    “Here’s to the next 40 years!”

    If you’d like to help Pilgrims celebrate our 40th anniversary year, please visit pilgrimshospices.org/40 to find out how you can get involved.

    You can also click here to donate to our special birthday Facebook fundraiser.

    A full photo album from the events can be found on our Facebook page.

    If you, or someone you know is coping with a life-limiting illness and you think you may benefit from Pilgrims support, talk to your GP or Healthcare Professional about the options or visit www.pilgrimshospices.org to research our services or find out how you can support the hospices.

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