Hospice’s future is looking bright

THE chief executive of Hartlepool and District Hospice has revealed that the facility was just three months away from closing due to financial struggles last year.

But after “brave and difficult” decisions were made, the hospice is now in a stable position to move forward and the latest balance sheets show it broke even in the last financial year.

It was revealed at the hospice’s annual general meeting earlier this week that the facility received £2,433,757 in the 2011/12 financial year.

That income is nearly £90,000 more than the annual running costs of £2,344,137 and has delighted hospice bosses.

However, speaking after the meeting, chief executive Tracy Woodall revealed that strategic changes, including making senior management staff redundant, had to be made last year to keep the hospice afloat.

She said: “We had to make some big decisions last year, we were three months away from some real struggles, potentially the hospice closing.”

Two senior management staff and two directors lost their jobs as bosses reluctantly made the much-needed changes.

Trustees and directors also established Alice House Care Agency, a subsidiary of the hospice which provides support in the community and additional personalised services including week-long respite care, complementary therapies and counselling and support services.

The agency’s services can be paid for privately or by using a personal budget, provided by the local authority or personal health budget allocated by the NHS, to give the hospice sustainable funding.

Hospice management praised staff for the way they have “embraced the changes” and helped to provide solid foundations for the hospice to move forward.

It was revealed at the AGM that nearly 300 referrals were made to the hospice’s inpatient unit from April 2011 to the end of March this year.

More than 2,000 appointments were made at the hospice’s day centre for people with life-limiting illnesses.

The hospice also held 584 individual counselling sessions, 554 complementary therapy session and answered 268 hospice helpline calls.

The hospice’s main source of funding, £710,334, came from public authorities.

Voluntary gifts provided £478,634, charity shops, cafe and merchandise raised £411,353 while a further £147,856 was provided through events, campaigns and sales.

The weekly hospice lottery draw raised more than £385,000 although bosses revealed they plan to make slight changes in the near future in an attempt to raise even more cash.

Money was also raised through legacies and grants.

Joanne Regan, hospice treasurer, said: “It was an interesting year, a year of two halfs.

“The first six months we were looking at spending cuts in the hospice but by September last year the difficult decisions were over and we had created a more efficient hospice to looking into the future.”

Ray Priestman, hospice chairman, added: “If we hadn’t made the cuts the hospice would have been under threat.

“The AGM last year was quite a depressing meeting because of the cuts, but a year on and the changes we have made have come to fruition.”