Hospices feeling financial strain

HOSPICES in the region are feeling the financial strain as fund-raising totals fail to hit targets, it has emerged.In some cases expansion plans have been delayed as donations fall short of what is needed – and one suspected cause is that more charity cash is being diverted towards major national appeals.

HOSPICES in the region are feeling the financial strain as fund-raising totals fail to hit targets, it has emerged.

In some cases expansion plans have been delayed as donations fall short of what is needed - and one suspected cause is that more charity cash is being diverted towards major national appeals.

St Nicholas Hospice, which cares for around 1,500 terminally ill patients in west Suffolk, had hoped to expand its services to help around 2,000 people.

Chief executive Ron Overton told the EADT current services were safe - but said there was "mild concern" about future plans.


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He said: "Our overall funds are actually up by 5% on last year, but we set some ambitious targets in terms of making increases and we are falling short of that.

"Most of that 5% is being eaten up by increased costs and inflation, so what we are not able to do is push forward in developing our services, but there is no threat to existing services."

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Mr Overton explained the charity needs around £3.1 million annually to provide services including a 10-bed inpatient treatment centre in Bury St Edmunds, day centre treatment and specialist nursing support.

While the hospice gets around £800,000 from Suffolk West Primary Care Trust, the remaining £2.3 million is met from community fundraising, he said.

Mr Overton said there were a number of explanations as to why new fundraising initiatives had failed to raise extra cash - including the possibility that a lot of donations that might otherwise have been given to various charities throughout the year had been diverted to tsunami relief.

He said: "The pattern is reflected in regional and national charities, and there may be several reasons for it including the tsunami effect, which we would support.

"But also there is the general picture of the economic climate and the fact that people are more charity aware these days and there are a lot more charities, so the same amount of money is being spread wider."

Lesley Cockerton, chief executive of St Elizabeth Hospice, Ipswich also said there had also been a mixed response to their fundraising efforts this year.

She said: "What we are finding is the pattern of giving is changing. Unsolicited giving is down, but fund-raising, appeals and sponsored events are very much on the up.

"Fund-raising is always a challenge and we must not be complacent, but we continue to get really wonderful support from the community."

Gary Hawkes, head of fund-raising at Farleigh Hospice, Chelmsford, said they had seen a drop off in sales at their fundraising shops.

"We are fundraising for our day-to-day services and we are also fund-raising for the new building project which is £6 million in total.

"To be quite honest, trying to fund raise for ongoing costs is always fairly tight as we don't have large reserves and each year we budget to raise enough to cover our service costs. We have the major appeal so it is not like a normal year for us.

"The £6 million appeal has £4.6 million so far but time is running out because of the time frame and we have to pay the builders."

As a result he warned that the new 15-bed hospice - due to be completed in December - may have to run at a level of 10 beds if the funding was not sufficient.

"It is a challenge and the area which is particularly affected has been the shops which have seen a decline - the figures have not been good and that is causing some concern although we do have a mixed portfolio of funding.

"The deficit in the shops income is not causing enough of a difficulty for cuts in services but it is a situation which we will need to monitor."

Rosy Stamp, chief executive of St Helena Hospice in Colchester, said: "We are always anxious about money, not just from donations but from central Government and the Department of Health - all hospices are constantly struggling."

The hospice raises funds through donations, its seven shops and a lottery which brings in more than £200,000 each year.

"Until the end of year figures are in we won't really know how we have done, but we have a lot of people who remain very loyal with their donations because if it is not a family member who has been affected, it is a neighbour or a friend."

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