Shropshire Star comment: Hospices facing crisis

Hospices are facing a deepening crisis as a result of coronavirus.

Exterior view of the new Severn Hospice building
Exterior view of the new Severn Hospice building

It is not a crisis of falling demand, or anything to do with the standards of care. On the contrary, those who have dealings with them are effusive in their praise and appreciation as loved ones are looked after in a home-from-home atmosphere.

No, this is instead a crisis which poses a danger to their range of services and even to their future – a growing crisis of finance. It is part and parcel of the impact of the pandemic on the charity sector. Others in the sector are in the same boat.

Most of their money comes through fundraising. But fundraising events, big and small, have had to be cancelled, and charity shops have also taken a hit.

The work of hospices complements that of the NHS, and some may wrongly have the notion that they are NHS institutions, with the financial security that that entails.

Instead they essentially exist through the financial goodwill of the public. There has been a measure of Government support during the height of the pandemic, but that has now ended.

A survey has shown that 56 of England's 169 hospices are at financial risk and are being forced to contemplate service cuts and redundancies, just as the sector prepares for a second wave of Covid-19.

So Katharine House Hospice at Stafford is in good company, if you can call it that, as it turns to the public for emergency support.

It says it needs to raise £1 million by January to allow it to bring in a new, more sustainable business model from next April, with four of its charity shops to close.

The thing about hospices is that they are "people's institutions," typically founded in the first place by public fundraising efforts, and sustained and supported in what they do by the efforts of ordinary folk.

Coronavirus has had a severe effect on what the communities they serve can actually do to raise money. But while that is true, it is also true that it has not brought fundraising opportunities to a full stop.

What it means is that to support hospices, and indeed other charities, fundraising efforts need to be redoubled – because we cannot afford to lose them.

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