Fifty jobs under threat at Somerset hospice

St Margaret's Hospice Care is proposing to close its in-patient unit in Yeovil as economic uncertainty continues to bite

More than 50 jobs are at risk at a Somerset hospice after it proposed closing the in-patient unit at its site in Yeovil.

St Margaret’s Hospice Care said in a statement last week that it was proposing to close the service at Yeovil and transform the site into a base for its community team, as well as providing day hospice facilities and outpatient services.

The hospice will increase the number of beds at its other site in Taunton from 12 to 16, the statement said, but the charity has also proposed losing the 10 beds that are currently in Yeovil.

The statement said it hoped to relocate those staff affected either to Taunton or the community team, but warned that up to 53 jobs could be at risk because of the changes.

The hospice said that an uncertain economic climate and changes in demand for its services, particularly from Somerset’s ageing population, were behind the proposals.

It added that flatlining NHS funding had meant an ever-increasing reliance on legacies to enable the charity to break even. The value of legacies rose by 22 per cent to £2.9m, the charity’s accounts for the year to 31 March 2018 show.

According to the charity’s 2018 accounts, the hospice had an income of £13.3m and spent £13.2m, and had unrestricted reserves of £14.7m.

It had 265 full-time-equivalent employees, the accounts say, 108 of which were clinical staff.

The charity’s accounts for that year show the hospice was seeking additional income, including by means of setting up its own funeral homes business.

The changes to the Yeovil site prompted an emergency meeting, held on 8 August by the local Conservative MP, Marcus Fysh, to discuss the proposals.

Fysh said on Twitter that he was concerned about the proposals and would attend a meeting on Thursday, hosted by the hospice, about the proposed changes to services.

Ann Lee, chief executive of St Margaret’s Hospice Care, said the charity had undertaken a review and engaged with the community, and had suggested the changes in order to focus on providing care closer to, or in, patients’ homes, with 85 per cent of patients already cared for in the community.

"Bringing all our in-patient beds under one roof in Taunton will help to overcome ongoing recruitment challenges, which have made it increasingly difficult for us to ensure adequate medical staffing cover at our Yeovil in-patient unit," she said.

"In common with many hospices across the UK, our fundraising and retail teams are experiencing a very challenging economic climate. We have been working hard to grow our income and control costs, but we also need to review our clinical services to ensure St Margaret’s Hospice Care has a sustainable future."

She also pledged to help affected staff as much as possible.

"We recognise that this will be an unsettling time, particularly for those staff directly affected by this proposal, and we are doing everything we can to support them," she said.

The changes at St Margaret’s come after recent financial problems at Acorn’s Children’s Hospice in the West Midlands, which has been campaigning to raise £2m to keep a facility in Walsall open amid a loss in funding due to Brexit and a fall in charity shop income.

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