'Hugely challenging' times for St Margaret's Hospice as it faces £2M funding shortfall

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A Somerset hospice is warning charities like it are facing "hugely challenging" times in the midst of the second lockdown.

St Margaret’s Hospice, which has bases in Taunton and Yeovil, is facing a £2million deficit this year with its charity shops closed and fundraising decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its chief executive Ann Lee has said she hopes its reserves will hold out for the next six months.

She said: “It has been an enormously challenging year. From a fundraising perspective, many of our events, which we planned for our 40th anniversary this year, had to be stopped.

“We were able to gain some grants from the government, which we were grateful for, but we still face a £2million operating deficit by the end of the year. Like many hospices across the country - hugely challenging times.”

It costs £14 million a year to run St Margaret's Hospice in Somerset Credit: ITV News West Country

St Margaret’s is now looking at sharing some services with other hospices, with the aim of further saving money.

Ann Lee said that many charities like it are concerned: “We have reserves, most hospices do, but as soon as you have to dip into those reserves then you don't get the returns on your portfolio.

“We have taken out a loan of £2million pounds to make sure that our cash flow situation is manageable.

“We hope that our reserves will hold out for at least a six-month period, but, obviously, it’s not a bottomless pit and we’re very conscious of the impact it’s having on the local economy generally. Having people out of work, it’s very difficult for people to be able to give, so it’s a worry.”

27 year-old Harriet Stuckey, from Puriton, has been receiving care and support from St Margaret's Hospice Credit: Harriet Stuckey

Hospices provide a vital service for patients and their families. Harriet Stuckey, who lives in the village of Puriton near Bridgwater, has a life-limiting condition. She’s been getting care and support from St Margaret’s Hospice in Taunton for the past four years.

She says it’s been priceless to her: "They talk about how long I've got like it's a normal thing. It's something that I have to process and I can't put it into the back of my mind.

"They say the right things and help you get it off your chest. They understand you better than maybe your family or friends understand you. I didn't think I'd be so reliant on somebody that wasn't my family.

"The more I talk about them the more I appreciate them."

It is hoped celebrities like Strictly Come Dancing’s Caroline Quentin can help St Peter’s Hospice in Bristol plug a £2million deficit.

For now, all charities can do is adapt and continue to support patients and their families.

At St Margaret’s they’ve seen a 20 per cent rise in calls to their advice line and are focussing on as much care in the community as possible.

Joy Milliken, clinical director at the hospice, said: “It’s been really challenging, but I think every single person that works for St Margaret’s is here because they want to do the very, very best for the people that they’re caring for.

St Margaret's Hospice's clinical director, Joy Milliken, says the charity has been doing all it can to support patients in their homes. Credit: ITV News West Country

“This has been a time when people have felt safest in their own homes and we’ve been working, and continue to work, closely with all of the services that we can to make sure that we are enabling people to be cared for safely and comfortably with those things and those people around them that are most important to them at this time.”

It costs £14million a year to run St Margaret’s Hospice. While charities like it have received government support this year - it’s likely they’ll need more as the pandemic persists.

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