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Hospices hit by rising costs and falling donations

BBC News – Health RSS Feed – World News
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A nurse and patientImage source, Havens Hospices/Anna Lukala

A combination of rising costs and falling donations is hitting the incomes of UK hospices, a provider has told the BBC.

Havens Hospices in Essex said it was making it harder to meet rising demand at its sites in Southend and Benfleet.

The average value of one-off donations to the charity has halved since April and its energy, food and staffing costs are soaring, said boss Steve Smith.

About 80% of Havens’ income comes from donations, he added.

“That’s from people jumping out of aeroplanes, running marathons, holding cake sales and all sorts of other activities,” he said.

“But we’re losing supporters at the moment. People are giving less and can’t afford to give regular payments.”

A room at Havens Hospices

Image source, Havens Hospices

Mr Smith said the charity expects its energy bills alone to soar by 85% in the next 12 months, from £40,500 to around £75,000.

On top of that, matching NHS rates of pay to recruit and retain staff has pushed up its wage bill up by 37% – an additional £2.8m a year.

The charity has also seen the cost of food go up, as well as fuel for the vehicles its community teams use.

Havens is not the only hospice facing financial uncertainty.

The charity Hospice UK estimates that hospices across the country will face up to £100m of additional costs this year due to rising inflation and the cost of matching NHS pay.

That works out as an extra £500,000 a year for an average hospice.

As well as looking at other ways to raise money, Mr Smith said Havens was trying to make savings where it could.

“We’ve looked at getting food supplied to us by donations, we use motion sensors to make sure lights aren’t left on, and we’re looking at whether we can move to electric vehicles to reduce our fuel costs,” he said.

Amanda-Jane Freemantle

Havens Hospices needs to raise around £85,000 a week to provide all their services, which are free to those who use them.

As well as inpatient care, they offer counselling, creative workshops and complimentary therapies like massage and reiki.

Amanda-Jane Freemantle, who has a congenital heart condition, has been going to Fair Havens in Southend for around a year.

“The complimentary therapies relax me,” she told the BBC. “I can bring a family member or friend and they can relax with me as well.”

“It gives me a purpose to go out,” she added. “I meet people who have an illness like myself and we are able to chat and have fun. And I learn new skills, which is amazing. Without the funding I wouldn’t be able to do all that.”

Amanda-Jane is supporting the hospice too, by making pamper packages for the inpatients. Elsewhere, the hospice’s staff are helping lead the fundraising efforts.

‘Tough decisions’

Ward manager Pamela Houghton-Clarke plans to run the London Marathon next year alongside two colleagues.

“It’s going to be a challenge, none of us are runners!” she said. But she and the team are “very aware” of the hospice’s challenges and keen “to do our bit”.

It’s clear that the cost pressures hitting households across the UK could affect how vital hospice services are funded.

Mr Smith says Havens is thinking about “different ways of fundraising and diversifying our income”, a process that’s already underway as it looks ahead to the next couple of years.

But he acknowledges there could be tough decisions to make.

“The risk is we will need to consider what we are offering and what is the most effective use of the income we receive. We will have to prioritise those services essentially for those who need them most.”

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