Pledge over future of South Tyneside’s end-of-life care in wake of St Clare’s Hospice closure

Health chiefs have pledged to restore end-of-life care in South Tyneside following the closure of St Clare’s Hospice.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 5:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th April 2019, 5:39 pm
St. Clare's Hospice,

Financial problems forced the Jarrow hospice into liquidation in January following more than 30 years of providing care.

Director of operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Matt Brown, said plans were being put in place to improve palliative care.

Speaking at the Jarrow and Boldon Community Area Forum, Mr Brown said the CCG would carry out an “engagement process” to allow people to share their views.

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This will last around three to four months, with the potential for a  “hospital inpatient-based service” in future.

In the meantime, he explained, the CCG plans to increase support for hospice services in the area as they did when St Clare’s temporarily closed between September – December last year.

He said: “We want to spend a little bit of time working through what the people of South Tyneside want and need and how we put that in place.

“The end of lives and palliative process is so important. We have to get it right.”

At the meeting, several members of the public quizzed the CCG head about the reasons for the hospice closure.

This included concerns about auditing processes and claims the CCG were warned about financial issues two years before the hospice shut its doors.

Mr Brown said the CCG were given assurance about the hospice’s finances “but that was clearly not the case”.

He added: “Had we been clear there was that issue at that point, we clearly would have done something about it. We never wanted to end up here.”

St Clare’s underwent two temporary closures in the run-up to the final decision to shut its doors.

In July 2018, a shortage of doctors forced it to suspend care for three weeks.

Later that year, in September, a damning inspection by the Care Quality Commission branded it “inadequate” and led to a three-month closure to get it back on track.

Following a meeting with CCG chiefs, it was revealed the hospice was insolvent.

Mr Brown, added: ”I know there is a lot of anxiety and upset because St Clare’s is a really valuable resource for the community.

“Lots of people think for some reason some of us have tried to do this deliberately and I have to say categorically there is no way any of us wanted to get to this point.

“We now have to approach a process of how we get some new hospice care going forward.”

Coun Geraldine Kilgour said residents were concerned about the former hospice site being “sold-off” for housing.

The meeting heard the land belongs to the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and that there were no plans to sell it.

Caption: St Clare;s Hospice

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service