Vital equipment at UK hospices hit by £29m nationwide fuel bill hike

ITV News North of England reporter Rachel Townsend hears from parents who say the hospice where their children are being looked after deserves more support

Shortly after arriving at work this morning, Heidi Hawkins opened a letter from her utility company, informing her that her annual energy costs would rise from £16,000 to £40,000. That’s an increase of 150%.

Heidi is the CEO of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice near Sheffield. There are similar stories at hospices across the UK.

“Our energy bills are going from £16,000 per year to £40,000 a year.” Heidi says, “So it’s costing much more yet we’re not delivering anymore services or doing anymore activities for the children.”

Bluebell Wood cares for 300 children and their families.

One of them is Charley Banyard and his four-year-old daughter Cora.

Cora is brain damaged after she was born 12 weeks premature.

She can’t see, talk or walk, but she can hear and the music therapy she has at the hospice in Sheffield brings a huge smile to her face.

Charley said: “It’s a break from reality. It’s nice to see her enjoying life.

"She’s spent 3 and a half years in hospital and she’s never been able to enjoy being a little girl and experience nice things that she hasn’t done before.”

Exclusive figures obtained by ITV News from over 100 hospices, show they expect their collective energy bills to increase by £29m over the next year.

Hospices were previously protected by an energy price cap, but this month they saw that support almost disappear.

They will now only receive the same discounts as restaurants and shops.

Tony Porter, Chief Executive of Hospice UK told ITV News: “The focus for hospices is care and the people at the end of life who need it.

"With the scheme coming into place, hospices will have as much support as a pub or a restaurant and even less than a museum or a zoo.”

"Over 300,000 people around the UK receive hospice care every year.

"They provide support to some of the most vulnerable in society.

"Yet the onus is on them to cover their own costs.

"For Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice that means raising £5m every year; 85% of that comes from donations."

Heidi Hawkins, CEO of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice

Heidi told ITV News: “We are so lucky with our supporters but it’s not just us seeing this increase, they’re dealing with it to.

"And at the heart of this are the families that come here. They have medical equipment that they need on in their home 24/7 and it’s not an option for them to turn it off.”

Charley agrees, he said: “It baffles me that places like Bluebell Wood offer so much yet get so little when you see money being wasted in every aspect of everyday life.”

Heidi says she will not consider turning off vital hospice equipment in order to save money.

But if help doesn’t come, she and hundreds of others keeping hospices afloat acknowledge they may need to rethink.

Tragically, the people who will be hit the hardest, are those in their final weeks and months of life.

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