Pioneering Nurses 2: Alison Colclough from Cheshire, UK

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

“I’ve been lucky as I love what I do, I see it as my place to encourage and inspire if at all possible.”

Alison began nursing in 1983. By 2007 she had discovered her passion for palliative care nursing and nursing in the community. Whilst volunteering at a homeless shelter she witnessed first-hand the difficulties people with a deteriorating health or a palliative diagnosis faced. A campaigner for change, her frustrations and compassionate nature led her to initiate at local level a palliative and end of life care homelessness service back in 2013. Her initiative subsequently featured on BBC Radio 4’s File on 4: Dying on the Streets, which aired on 13th February 2018.

ehospice is proud to be sharing the stories of Pioneering Nurses selected by St Christophers as part of their celebration of nursing.

Alison’s story 

Many of the people Alison encounters are highly vulnerable with heavily deteriorating health conditions. These individuals have their own life stories to tell yet often are at risk of being forgotten and ignored, existing only on the fringes of society. They have little to no access to health care support with the result that they often have an undignified death after living through tragic life circumstances and events.

In 2013 Alison began a palliative and end of life care homelessness initiative for those living on the streets as well as those in temporary or insecure accommodation. In order to get this going she began, in collaboration with the Matron of her local hospice – St Luke’s Hospice Winsford, by making funding applications. Seven years on and many working hours later the initiative is actively providing support to this group of people and Alison continues to be engaged on a part-time voluntary basis alongside her paid employment.

Alison saw and continues to see possibilities and opportunities where others do not. Together with her team she works across numerous organisations in order to raise awareness of the difficulties and barriers faced by those experiencing homelessness and related discrimination. She gives a voice to those who are often left unheard.

What drives you to make a difference?

Alison cannot stand the day after day discrimination and injustice faced by any marginalised group. It is something she has always been aware of and motivated to do something about; both as a nurse and as a human being. However, for a variety of reasons, she found her deepest vocation and vision emerged around the diverse and marginalised groups that end up homeless. Here, contributing factors often include issues related to childhood traumas, substance misuse, and severe mental health issues. Out of work immigrants are also vulnerable.


Her passion fuels her courage which enables her to operate outside of her comfort zone. She has a great ability to speak from the heart with authenticity born of both expertise and compassion.

This combination of passion, authenticity and courage enables Alison to communicate the needs of these vulnerable people to those who can really start to affect change. She believes that a ‘one size fits all’ system is out-dated and unacceptable; that professionals set people up to fail. For all our sakes, she believes, we must keep pushing for change.

Alison is aware of a few other hospices across the country who are involved in this important outreach work and she wants to encourage more hospices to engage so as to ensure this often invisible but vital need is met. This continues to be a complex issue in the UK in desperate need of support. Her well-established programme of education reaches out to health and social care professionals working in a variety of settings – including hostels.


How do you inspire others to give of their best?

“I think I have become a leader by default. I never wanted to be one, it just happened. I’ve been lucky as I love what I do and cannot NOT do it. I’m convinced that the way we treat certain groups is utterly disgraceful and if we sit back and do nothing then what are we all?”

“I talk about what we do in as many places as possible, not because I want a pat on the back but because we ALL need to be doing something. I see it as my place to encourage and inspire if at all possible. I’m nothing special which means others can look at me and say: ‘If she can do that then so can we.’


How do you encourage person centred care?

Relationship building is Alison’s key to success. When care isn’t good enough, she will always ask or challenge for something better. She has the perspective of those she is caring for at the core of her efforts. She explains: “How can I possibly know what’s better for them than they do?” While maintaining a non-judgemental attitude she treats every person who accesses the services with the dignity and care they deserve. As Service Lead, her role can also be ethically very challenging. She understands the great need for collaborative and informed decision making when dealing with and navigating the complexity of issues and lack of resources often present.


For more information on St Christophers celebrating pioneering nurses: See 

For more information on the Homelessness Service run by St Luke’s Cheshire Hospice go to:

St Luke’s Homelessness Service:

Briefing notes regarding palliative care for those experiencing homelessness in the time of COVID-19:


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