WALES' largest provider of hospice-at-home care formally opened its £2.9 million day hospice in Newport today.

The new base for St David's Hospice Care, at Blackett Avenue, Malpas, officially opened today by First Minister Carwyn Jones, marks a big step forward for the charity, as its patient numbers continue to grow.

The day hospice, which includes a chemotherapy outreach centre, has capacity to host complementary and art therapies, children's support services, carers and bereavement groups, and has also been designed to offer respite and support for those caring for a loved one with a terminal illness.

It also brings St David's Hospice care staff together under one roof, along with the hospice-at-home team - which handles around 3,000 referrals a year, and which includes social workers, carers and specialist nurses - and fundraising teams.

"Our new building is a vital component in our work to provide end-of-life care to people in their own homes, as well as providing a much-needed new day hospice and chemotherapy outreach clinic," said chief executive Emma Saysell.

"It is very important to us that, whilst being designed to offer clinical treatments, it's not always about medicine, and it doesn't have to feel too clinical.

"End-of-life patients and their families are facing all kinds of difficulties, and our new building will help them to deal with these by offering a range of services and treatments.

St David's Hospice Care provides free hospice-at-home care to patients in Newport, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire and south Powys.

It also helps train district nurses and care home staff to care to terminally ill patients, and the building has conference and meeting rooms where training sessions can be held.

The Welsh Government funded £2m of the cost, and the First Minister said palliative care has developed apace and that St David's Hospice Care has had and continues to have, a huge role in delivering such care in south east Wales.

Charity dealt with 2,044 patients in 2010

THE latest figures, for 2010, show that 2,044 patients were referred to St David's Hospice Care.

The majority were cancer patients, but around one-in-six (17.6 per cent) had a non-cancer diagnosis.

That year, the charity cared for 3,014 patients and their families, up 8.1 per cent on 2009.

At any one time, it is caring for more than 1,000 patients.