North East Wales hospice makes Welsh Government plea as they “face the greatest challenge in our history”
The chief executive of a hospice has warned that it will be unable to continue providing its “first-class patient services” unless there is a fundamental change to the way it is funded.
Nightingale House Hospice provides specialist palliative care services to people from across north east Wales with life-limiting illnesses.
The hospice – which is based in Wrexham – is on course to lose £1.2m this year alone after the pandemic forced the closures of its charity shops and onsite Caffi Cwtch.
It costs over £3,400,000 a year to operate the hospice, It was expected that the scheduled fundraising events would have contributed £250,000 in its 25th anniversary year towards the provision of patient services.
However these have been cancelled until December at the earliest, with no guarantee these will be able to go ahead if there is second wave or further lockdown restrictions in place.
An open letter penned by Steve Parry, chief executive of the hospice, said traditional fundraising avenues have been “decimated” since the start of the pandemic and that every effort has been made to generate fresh income streams.
Mr Parry said: “Despite the amazing support we have received from the public since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our hospice will not be able to continue delivering first-class patient services unless there is a fundamental change to the way we are funded.
“As a much-loved facility in the heart of Wrexham, we have never sat back and waited for handouts, that is not the way Nightingale House operates.
“The continued generosity of the public and our best endeavours will not be enough to stop the hospice losing £1.2million this year, a large portion of that due to the closure of our 11 charity shops and two cafes.
“Our charity shops have started to reopen, and social distancing measures are in place, but it will be some time before we generate enough income to match previous years.
“The cafes are scheduled to do the same in early August, but reduced seating capacity will lead to a subsequent drop in profits.”
He added: “This vital income source has been taken away from us. Also, since the onset of the pandemic we are already seeing a reduction in the level of donations we receive from the public. Between April and June this year that figure is down £100,000 on the same period in 2019.
“Much like tourism, fundraising is seasonal, so July and August would traditionally be peak times.
“Autumn through to Spring – with the exception of the festive season – are traditionally very lean periods when people continue to be generous, but we feel the strain.
“Nightingale House has successfully overcome many obstacles in the past but the severe financial pressure we are currently experiencing as a consequence of this pandemic provides us with the greatest challenge in our history.”
Mr Parry has now called on the Welsh Government for additional support for hospices, stating that funding has not been forthcoming since an initial £200,000 boost in April.
He adds that Welsh hospices “are far worse off than counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland”, making “it even more difficult to be resilient to the challenges we are now facing.”
“When COVID-19 struck the UK, initial negotiations between our umbrella body Hospice UK and Westminster secured £200million for palliative care facilities, with £6.3m of that amount to be specifically committed to independent charitable hospices in Wales in order to enable the continued delivery of patient services until previous income streams could be restored,” said Mr Parry.
“We were awarded £200,000 for the month of April and were expecting to receive the same for May and June to help us through this crisis – a total of £600,000 over three months.
“Since that first award, not a penny has been received by Nightingale House Hospice, and communication has broken down. We have heard nothing.
“At a time when all sectors of our community are feeling extreme pressure, we ask the Welsh Government to recognise this and support us by releasing the additional funding we were promised at a time when we need it most.
“Nobody predicted we would be hit by a global pandemic; the finger cannot be pointed at the Welsh or UK Governments for that.
But where there must be accountability is in the fact this hospice – and the sector in general – has been chronically underfunded for more than a decade in Wales.”
He adds: “Furthermore, with regard to the emergency funds released by Westminster to support independent charitable hospices the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive have confirmed they will be distributing their full allocation in their respective countries, no such confirmation has been made by the Welsh Government for independent charitable hospices in Wales. Why?
“Investing this additional funding to the independent charitable hospices in Wales is needed now to provide the financial stability we require in order to plan for the delivery of future patient services.
“Hospices in Wales will continue to comply with Welsh Government requirements for monitoring and providing a transparent account of activity and finances. Confirmation of funding allocations for May and June are already overdue and commitment is needed to confirm the support in future months until pre-COVID income streams can be restored.
“We need parity with the rest of the UK if we are to continue to provide the best patient care to our community. Equality is vital, but most importantly in the coming weeks there must be discussions and assurances provided on how this essential sector can be supported through this crisis and preserved for the future.”
Top picture: Steve Parry from Nightingale House Hospice
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