Cumbrian hospices warn of crisis in care as they urge government to help with rising energy bills

Eden Valley Hospice in Carlisle. ITV pic 18/10/21
The CEO of Eden Valley Hospice said there was no option to "just turn the heating off". Credit: ITV News Border

A number of hospices are calling for urgent government support as energy bills continue to rocket.

It is part of a joint appeal from a dozen hospices in Cumbria and the North East, as it is predicted that gas and electricity will cost an extra one million pounds across the 12 sites.

Bosses also fear that dwindling donations, because of the cost of living crisis, could drastically impact their services.

At the Eden Valley Hospice, in Carlisle, lights are already being turned off and staff have said they are more careful of how their use energy.

CEO of the Julie Clayton said the group needed an extra million pounds to cover additional energy costs.

She said: "Whether it's children or adults, they are at very very fragile time in their lives.

"There isn't an option to switch off the heating. There isn't an option to stop for 12 hours, You've got to keep it going."

Ms Clayton added: "Hospices rely on more than three quarters of their income being fundraised with their local community. It is an enormous pressure at a time when we know that everyone is going to be struggling with the cost of living."

In a joint statement, the hospices have asked for the government to step in in order for them to continue providing vital services that are free at the point of use.

It is hoped the statement will make Westminster acknowledge the pressures the sector faces and bring in measures such as capping bills at a "reasonable level".

Ms Clayton told ITV Border there is optimism as the new Prime Minister Liz Truss enters Downing Street as the energy crisis is one of her top priorities.

Jigsaw is the only children's hospice in Cumbria and provides clinical and medical care for young people with life limiting illnesses.

Part of its role includes providing services like a children's sensory room, which staff at the centre are determined to save despite rising costs.

Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland is also part of the group asking for more support.

Chief executive Fiona Stobart said she is very concerned about the people they look after and how they will cope with soaring prices.

She said: "For those people that are dying and their families looking after them, they have a particularly challenging time. The worst times of the lives really. To then have the added worry about the increased energy bills must be awful."

The hospices say that any support would be good news but it is coming increasingly vital as the winter months approach.

A government spokesperson said: “No national government can control the global factors pushing up the price of energy, but we will continue to provide support in navigating the months ahead. 

“As part of the NHS pandemic response, We have made over £400 million available to hospices since the start of the pandemic to support them in delivering quality care to those who need it."

They added: “Hospices may also be entitled to a reduction in VAT, from 20% to 5%, and exclusion from the main rates of the Climate Change Levy on the energy they use for non-business purposes.”

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