Hospice to cut jobs and beds

A CHARITY which provides hospice care for sick and dying children is to go ahead with a plan to slash up to 25 full-time care jobs and reduce beds, it has been revealed.

By Danielle Nuttall

A CHARITY which provides hospice care for sick and dying children is to go ahead with a plan to slash up to 25 full-time care jobs and reduce beds, it has been revealed.

A funding crisis has left East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) with no option but to make redundancies and reduce service in favour of a more cost-effective care at home plan.

The redundancies will affect care staff at the East Anglian Children's Hospice in Ipswich and hospices in Quidenham in Norfolk and Milton in Cambridgeshire.

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Hospices in all three areas will remain open but overnight care at each site will be reduced from seven nights per week to just three or four.

The cuts have been brought about by a £640,000 shortfall in funding next year due to a three-year funding agreement with the Big Lottery Fund coming to an end in March.

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But there was hope last night the number of redundancies could be lower than anticipated as EACH has received an indication there could be additional funding following discussions with statutory agencies.

Graham Butland, EACH's chief executive, said: “That 25 is the maximum. We are having encouraging discussions with local statutory agencies which may mean there is additional funding coming.

“Clearly, if that comes that will go directly to protecting services, so it may well be the final number of redundancies could be lower. We don't know at the moment.

“This year fundraising has increased perhaps as a result of the publicity that this has been bringing. “There is a good chance for this financial year ending March 31 2006 our income and expenditure will be in balance.”

But he added: “The problem we have which is included in that is the £640,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, which won't be there in 2006/07. That's the issue we are tackling.

“We will be reducing the amount of care and support we have to give to families. At the moment the hospices are open seven nights a week.

“We will be reducing that to three or four nights a week, except for end of life care which we will always provide for as long as that need is there.”

The charity produced the Closer to Home document towards the end of last year, which set out potential options for future care as it grappled with the cash shortage.

Staff and families were consulted over the paper, but trustees decided at a meeting on Thursday that it needed to concentrate on a more community-based service, which will save costs due to fewer care staff.

The changes are due to take place immediately and are expected to be in place by April.

“Staff know that the decision has been taken,” said Mr Butland.

“I don't think it will get any worse. We think we are probably dealing with the worst case scenario. I actually think it might be a little less because clearly as vacancies have occurred we are not filling them.

“There will always be a need for in-house hospice care but we also want to expand the care we can give to people in the community. Our view is some of the sickest children are in the community because they can't travel to hospices. These families desperately need respite care as well.”

In 2005/06, it cost more than £4.7m to run the hospices, with only 10% of the income coming from government or statutory sources.

The number of families across the region who use the hospices has risen by 20 per cent in the past five years to 350.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to EACH can do so by calling (01953) 715559 or visit its website at www.each.org.uk.

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