Northern Ireland Hospice services hit by cost-of-living crisis

The Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Hospice, Heather Weir has warned it may have to curtail some of its patient services if it is to survive the cost-of-living crisis and dwindling donations.

It is suffering along with other charities and she said they are very concerned.

The Hospice costs more than £18million a year to run.

The other half depends on fundraising but donations which are down by £750,000 compared to last year. And shockingly its bill for gas and electricity is £480,000. That’s double what it was last year.

Sitting on a comfortable armchair by the side of her hospice bed, Maggie Irvine was keen to talk about her experience of palliative care and praise the consultants and nurses who are looking after her.

Maggie is terminally ill but she will tell you herself that she’s one of the lucky ones. She said: “The nurses are at my beck and call.

"I just need to push the buzzer here and they are with me to see what I need. They listen, wipe away my tears, and make me laugh. They are all absolutely wonderful."

But the Hospice's palliative care needs a financial shot in the arm and Heather Weir is worried and frustrated.

She said: “It is a real threat that we may have to start consolidating or reducing our services to ensure that we survive this cost-of-living crisis.

“The demand for what we do is increasing, the money that we need to operate our services is decreasing from fundraising, and the government have still not reached that 5050 partnership arrangement for children's pediatric palliative care in Northern Ireland.”

Ninety percent of Hospice care is delivered in the community.

Phil Entwistle is one of the nurse specialists at the Hospice who goes out to people’s homes to administer palliative care.

“Last year we received over 4000 referrals in the community straight out of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“A lot of patients want to die at home and be at home at the end and that's what our role is all about. It’s about keeping those patients at home and trying to promote that and giving help to the other professionals out there which is very, very important.

Heather added: “We're hearing in the media at the minute about people dying on trolleys and not even being assessed by medical staff. That's not what any of us wants. People deserve to have palliative and end-of-life care to end their lives well”.

For Maggie and people like her, that means the world to them. “I have been so lucky to have been in here," she said.

"I am terminal and that’s scary you know. I am scared but the nurses and consultants are there to hold my hand. When I am afraid they show me that there is no need to be”.

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