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Hospice in Yeovil plans to cut patient beds

The hospice has announced its plans to close inpatient beds Credit: ITV News

A hospice in Yeovil has announced its plans to close inpatient beds, resulting in a call for an overhaul in how hospices are funded.

St Margaret's Hospice Care's plans would see its 12 spaces in the town removed with four added at its base in Taunton. The national charity Hospice UK has said more funding should come from the government.

Up to fifty members of staff at a Somerset hospice are at risk of being made redundant as the charity battles “an increasingly unsustainable financial position”.

But people in South Somerset are fighting to stop the closures with thousands having signed a petition against it.

The charity's bosses say they're not in financial crisis - but are being forced to make tough choices early.

The charity bosses say they need to close the beds so that the hospice has a sustainable future Credit: ITV News

Our trustees and our board of executives have actually considered making sure that St Margaret's has a sustainable future and that means not looking at the short-term viability but the longer-term picture and that's why it's important in this proposal that we consider how we can actually manage having one site with an inpatient unit bed.

– Ann Lee, CEO St Margaret's
Hospices like this one rely heavily on public donations Credit: ITV News

Nearly one third of St Margaret's Hospice's funding comes from the NHS - the charity relies heavily on the generosity of local people and also on its retail outlets for the rest of the funding.

Like many charities across the UK, both retail and fundraising teams have found funding squeezed in recent times.

St Margaret's is one of over two hundred of its kind in the country. The charity Hospice UK says around eighty per cent of those are facing a financial deficit this year.

We need to look at a completely new sustainable funding model for hospices because it is the only area of healthcare outside of our ambulances that's funded in this way. Everything else, cradle to grave, is funded by the NHS, by the state, and yet when it comes to good end of life care we're expecting people to raise money in their local communities in order to provide the basics. It's complex healthcare - it should be provided by the state.

– TTracey Bleakley CEO, Hospice UK
Caroline's husband Steve was given end of life care in Yeovil. Credit: ITV News

It's an emotional time for those whose lives St Margaret's Hospice have touched. Caroline's husband Steve was given end of life care in Yeovil.

It was amazing, to be honest. It allowed me to be his wife again and to be a mum to my son and it let Steve have his time as a dad and a husband back as well. The support we got was amazing. I didn't know how I'd cope without it.

– Caroline Mc Kendrick
Steve received care and support from the hospice Credit: ITV News

One in three people in Somerset will be supported at some stage in their lifetime by St Margaret's and so it's very important that we maintain a position in the community of strength because the NHS isn't in a position to actually provide those services. So we're really having now to actually make sure we're delivering exactly what people need - closer, at home, in the community so that they're not alone.

– Ann Lee, CEO St Margaret's

Somerset's Clinical Commissioning Group say that they will continue to work with the hospice, but also support a 'your own bed is best' policy.

As a valued partner in Somerset’s healthcare community, St Margaret’s Hospice Care provides high quality end-of-life care and support to thousands of patients and families across the county each year; many of them are supported to stay at home. We are proud to contribute to funding this important work.

We recognise that all healthcare providers need to review their services regularly to ensure they are delivering care in the most appropriate way and using their resources effectively. Across the country, we are seeing more care provided closer to where people live. This aligns very much with our ‘your own bed is best bed’ principle of our health and care strategy for Somerset, Fit For My Future, as well as the move to support more people in their homes, close to family and community which is a key driver of both our own strategy and the NHS Long Term Plan.We work closely with St Margaret’s and recognise that all hospices are operating in a challenging climate. We have actively engaged with the charity’s Fit for Future review and are confident that this proposed remodelling of its service provision is the result of careful consideration of the changing needs of our community. We hope it will ensure St Margaret’s Hospice Care has a sustainable future for many years to come.

– David Freeman, Chief Officer, NHS Somerset CCG

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said the NHS are working with Hospice UK to help local areas provide the care that best fits them.

Everyone deserves dignity and respect at the end of life and hospices play an important part in this. They have always been part-funded by local NHS organisations and local areas are responsible for ensuring services meet the needs of their communities.

The NHS is working with Hospice UK to evaluate the effectiveness of different hospice services in the community, so local areas can commission the forms of support that work best for their communities.

– Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson

St Margaret's Hospice has tried to raise funding through various ways in recent years - even opening a funeral directors in Taunton. If these proposals become reality, it hopes to secure its future.