Hospice loses third of beds in cash cut

A HOSPICE has become the latest victim of the global economic turmoil after slashing a third of its beds and imposing a freeze on recruitment.

A HOSPICE has become the latest victim of the global economic turmoil after slashing a third of its beds and imposing a freeze on recruitment.

Defiant bosses at St Nicholas Hospice last night pledged to keep patient care as the top priority despite the dramatic cull - a direct result of the recession.

The hospice yesterday announced it would be closing four beds in its Sylvan Ward inpatient unit leaving just eight spaces and forcing more patients to be treated in their homes.

The charity - which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary - has also currently got a freeze on recruitment as part of “strategic cost-saving measures” designed to counter an overall decline in income as a result of the economic troubles.

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Jackie Saunders, clinical services director, revealed that some of the problems had been caused by several members of staff leaving within a short space of time.

She said: “The remaining staff aren't able to cover a rota for a ward at full capacity. I made the decision to temporarily reduce occupancy so remaining staff are able to offer the quality of care and time to each patient that we are renowned for.

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“Despite the current pressures, we remain firmly committed to supporting people wherever they want to die.”

Under the new proposals, the ward will continue to accept referrals, admitting those with critical needs, but other patients will be supported by the hospice's specialist community teams in their own homes.

Chief executive Barbara Gale described the plans as “temporary” and moved to reassure patients and family members that the quality of care would not be affected.

In a statement, she said: “Patients are at the heart of everything we do but practically it was not possible to maintain a full ward at this time.

“Whilst the organisation tries to strategically work its way through the impact of the recession, we cannot sanction recruitment into new vacancies.

“We hope to be able to lift the freeze as soon as regular income increases. Appeals over the past few months have increased donations and I would like to thank the local community for their support and understanding.

“Suffolk NHS have also increased their contribution to the cost of patient care. During our ward refurbishment last summer we temporarily dropped down to six beds and some patients were successfully cared for at home.”

In February, the hospice warned that jobs might have to be cut unless it plugged a �500,000 funding hole caused by a drop in donations and investments.

The hospice provides care and support throughout West Suffolk and Thetford and has 320 patients on its caseloads at any given time. It costs �10,000 a day to run the organisation, coming solely through fundraising.

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