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Pip’s story: Hiking 520 miles along the Pyrenees for Hospiscare

Exeter GP, Pip Hayes, is taking on the challenge of a lifetime for the hospice that has supported so many of her patients

Semi-retired GP, Pip Hayes, set off on a tough 520-mile hike through the Pyrenees Mountains on 30 June to raise funds for Hospiscare, as we treat many of her patients at the end of their lives.

The 66-year-old GP is carrying all her gear, including overnight camping kit, on the GR11 route – dubbed one of the hardest hikes in Europe, along the spine of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. She’s walking with good friend, Elsa Decker.

Pip laughs, “Neither of us have done anything quite like this before. We haven’t proven we can do it yet! We’re not so worried about walking the miles, our main anxieties are orienteering the route and the weight of our packs, carrying tents, cooking gear, food, everything, for six weeks.

“I know I can carry the weight of my camping kit now. My son, a local doctor, is being very firm, saying I shouldn’t carry over 13kg, but I think it’s going to be about 17kg, including two litres of water.”

A woman wearing a Hospiscare t-shirt

Semi-retired Exeter GP, Pip Hayes

A GP since 1986, Pip worked at St Leonard’s in Exeter for 16 years until she retired from daytime practice in 2015. She now works an out-of-hours rota, mainly during weekends. While at St Leonard’s, she referred many patients to Hospiscare for palliative care. As an out-of-hours doctor, she now visits patients in their own homes who are being cared for by the hospice team.

Pip continues, “Hospiscare supports adults with life-limiting illnesses and currently helps at least 2,000 people every year across the heart of Devon. I see the fantastic work they do close-up, with their specialist ward in Exeter and out in the community. They provide a super service and there’s always an on-call hospice consultant that the out-of-hours GPs can talk to, which is really useful.

“Their service is invaluable to people with all sorts of end-of-life conditions, not just cancer, but they’re spread too thinly over quite a large area and in dire need of more funding. As a charity, they’re dependent on donations and fundraising, and as costs increase, they’re having to close beds and cut back on services.”

Hospiscare receives only 18 per cent of its budget from government funding, compared to a national average of 37 per cent. Working on the NHS frontline, and seeing the hospice in action, inspired Pip to raise funds. Prior to the GR11 she’s also raised money for Hospiscare by running in the London and Paris marathons and the Great West Run.

A woman in walking gear with Nordic sticks

Pip in training for her GR11

Pip concludes, “This GR11 is probably my last big fundraising hit, I don’t think I’ll do many more. I hope to inspire other people to fundraise for Hospiscare and then I can sponsor them instead!”

To sponsor Pip, click here.

Inspired by Pip’s story? Find out about taking on a challenge of your own for your local hospice charity.