WORK is under way to build a £775,000 extension at Basildon’s St Luke’s Hospice as part of ongoing plans to improve services for patients.

The first pieces of ground were broken at the hospice, in Nethermayne, Basildon, to mark the start of construction of the new centre last week.

The extension will enable patients living with terminal illnesses to receive day therapy, and assessments and use support services.

Patients were asked for their input as part of the plans and helped to design the new facility.

Eileen Marshall, St Luke’s chief executive, said: “This represents a defining moment in the development of St Luke’s Hospice and the services we provide.

“Our new annexe will put St Luke’s at the forefront of modern palliative care and enable us to provide the best possible service to our local community.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped make our vision for hospice care a reality.”

The two-storey annexe, adjoining the day hospice, will allow nurses to help more Basildon and Thurrock residents cope with their illnesses. The existing building can no longer handle the demand for the hospice’s services.

The Department of Health has helped to fund the project, but the hospice had to find an extra £230,000 to get the works underway, which came from its small pool of capital reserves.

Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, who helped the hospice secure its grant funding, went to the hospice to break the first areas of ground with Gerry Peaty, chairman of St Luke’s trustee board.

Mr Metcalfe said: “The hospice already makes an enormous difference to the lives of those affected by terminal illness and the additional services that will now be provided will only better this.

“It was a privilege to be involved with the grant process and my sincere thanks go to all those who worked so hard to bring this project to fruition.”

Space for the annexe has been made by moving the fundraising office to Astra House, in Christy Way, Laindon, and removing a shed used to store donations to the charity shop.

Donations should now be taken to a St Luke’s shop.

Alternatively, request a collection by calling 01268 522741.