Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn has called for St Clare’s staff to be reemployed and the building brought back into use in an open letter to the South Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as part of an engagement exercise on palliative care and hospice services in the borough.
The MP said he was “shocked” when the hospice shut its doors in January due to financial difficulties after more than 30 years caring for patients.
Mr Hepburn said he immediately contacted St Clare’s chief executive, wrote to the Health Minister and held meetings with the CCG and Hospice UK as well as raising the issue with the Prime Minister and meeting the Minister of State for Care and former donors from the hospice.
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He said it would “make good sense” to use the existing building to provide palliative services in South Tyneside.
“The case for reopening a hospice facility in the existing provision at Primrose Hill speaks for itself,” he said.
“The fully trained palliative care staff who formerly worked at St Clare’s could be reemployed to deliver the highly specialised support it delivered to people requiring end-of-life-care.
“It is without doubt the people of South Tyneside would support this option.”
Mr Hepburn said since the closure of St Clare’s, patients had been forced to travel to either Sunderland or Newcastle – which was of particular concern due to the relatively low rate of car ownership in South Tyneside.
“Many people locally are forced to use taxis with which can cost up to £40 for a round trip,” he said.
“For pensioners, families with small children, the disabled, and those on low incomes, the travelling aspect is adding yet another layer of difficulty at a very sad and emotional time.”