Bosses at Blackpool's Trinity Hospice say they face a funding deficit this year of up to £1.5 million due to the coronavirus lockdown.
They've been playing a vital role in the response to Covid-19 on the Fylde Coast, despite all their fundraising activities been cancelled and charity shops closed.
We've been chatting to Chief Exec, David Houston, who's been explaining more about how hard they've been working during the current situation to maintain their service and provide support to the NHS, and what you can do to raise money for the charity:
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The hospice – which should have been celebrating in this, its 35th anniversary year – has stepped in to help take pressure of NHS partners, but faces a huge challenge in terms of finance in the coming months.
With all its shops closed, its spring and summer mass participation events cancelled and uncertainty about when businesses and schools will reopen, Trinity and its dedicated children’s hospice Brian House, face an estimated funding deficit of £1million – and it could be more.
This week, letters are being sent to 15,000 known supporters outlining the current situation and the urgent need for financial help. Staff at the hospice – where bed capacity has been increased by 50% - are fronting the appeal, with personal messages from Medical Director Dr Gillian Au and Ward Manager Cathy Whittaker.
Dr Au said: “I joined the hospice just a few months ago, following a 30-year career as a local GP. The coronavirus crisis has hit our community incredibly hard. It has changed the way we are living and dying. I have been stunned by the response we have seen by all in our local health and social care profession; everyone has come together to share their knowledge and experience – and to support each other. I feel that many of us will look back on this time with pride at what we’ve achieved.
“Trinity Hospice is the only organisation offering dedicated specialist palliative and end-of-life care for people across the whole of the Fylde Coast during the crisis. For 35 years Trinity has looked after local people in their final days but now we are being asked to face the greatest challenge we are ever likely to face.
“We’ve moved mountains in the last few weeks to change the way we work, to keep nursing local people who have never needed us more, and to support those with coronavirus at the end-of-life in our local community. But, if we’re going to make it through this crisis, we’re going to need help.”
The situation has impacted directly on all hospice staff – and not just emotionally. They had been awarded a 1.75% pay increase, but only 1% was given in April; the rest deferred because of the current situation, with no guarantee of when it might be paid. Some staff have been furloughed under the Government scheme, and some money has been set aside for the hospice sector by the Chancellor, but there is uncertainty about how much Trinity will get.
While Trinity Hospice has good cash reserves and is considered one of the UK’s most sustainable hospices, without its expected fundraising income, and with the additional cost of taking NHS patients, Chief Executive David Houston says the only option is to ask the community to help. Even with Government money to cover extra costs because the hospice is on the Covid -19 front line, it is likely the year- end shortfall will be over £1m.
David said: “Times like this really underline the fact that the Fylde Coast needs its hospice and the hospice needs the residents of the Fylde Coast. We are in unchartered territory and don’t know how long the impact of Covid-19 will last, but it is obviously going to be months rather than weeks.
“Though it increases our hospice costs, stepping in to help our local NHS was the right thing to do, and we are trying to keep all our specialist palliative care hospice and hospital nursing services running as before, to ensure that everyone approaching end of life – for whatever reason – is supported. We have set up telephone helplines and are using remote technology for some consultations, trying to work as efficiently as we can.
“We are not in crisis – our prudent approach to funding and several really successful fundraising years give us a solid base – but the hole in our 2020 finances will take its toll.”
Already several projects planned at the hospice have been shelved – such as a long awaited upgrade of staff canteen and rest areas and the upgrade of patient tv/internet facilities. Expansion of services planned for this year and next may also be put on hold.
Head of Fundraising Linzi Warburton said: “As a charity, we must raise at least £6 million a year in voluntary donations – the money we get from the Department of Health and NHS only covers about a third of our costs annually. The cancellation of our big events, and the impact on community, corporate and school fundraising means we are about £500,000 down.
“There have been some fantastic examples of people doing what they can to help us in the crisis – from solo runs and bike rides, to generous donations from local companies – and even £5 from a little boy who said the tooth fairy had left it for him, but he wanted us to have it.
“Our fundraising staff have been moved to tears more than once in recent weeks because of the kindness shown in this crisis. Now we are hoping that our Emergency Appeal letters will help others understand fully the funding challenge we are facing.”