A NEW national charity has taken its first steps towards supporting families in hospices across the UK after launching in Stourbridge.

The Hospice Biographers is training local journalists and hospice staff members to capture life stories of patients battling life-limiting illnesses in audio, to then be given to their family and friends.

Those stories will be held confidentiality by the charity for 10 years, before the family can choose to have the recording deleted, otherwise it will become part of a public library.

Library recordings would then be used to research whether the telling of personal stories can have a positive impact on patients battling life-limiting illnesses or facing a terminal diagnosis.

Biographers recently graduated the charity’s first training programme at Mary Stevens Hospice, with the Hagley Road cause continuing to act as the ‘Midlands Hub’ for the project, providing a central point of contact for the six hospices involved in the pilot scheme.

Barbara Altounyan, founder of Hospice Biographers, said: “Our long-term ambition is to train hospice biographers for 200 hospices across the UK. We want them to be as common in hospices as therapists are today.

“Families will be able to hear their loved one voices and precious memories for generations to come. At my house, the audio recording I made of my father's life story is one of my most valuable possessions.”

Stevan Jackson, chief executive of Mary Stevens Hospice, said the idea was “fabulous”, adding: “It is so obvious once you’ve heard it. It’s a surprise no-one has started a charity dedicated to recording people’s story’s before.

“I would find irresistible the concept of being able to listen to my great grandfather relating the story of his experiences in the Second Boer War in his own voice.

“We are delighted to have hosted the pilot training course for Hospice Biographers and we look forward to introducing this great service to Mary Stevens Hospice patients.”

For more information about the new charity, visit www.thehospicebiographers.com

Other hospices taking part in the two-day pilot training programme include Primrose in Bromsgrove, St Richards in Worcester, Myton in Coventry, St Michael’s of Bartestree and Douglas McMillan Hospice in Stoke-on-Trent.