End of life care pledge after South Tyneside hospice closure

Health bosses in South Tyneside have pledged to keep on supporting end of life services in the borough following the closure of South Tyneside’s only hospice.

St Clare's Hospice
St Clare's Hospice

St Clare’s Hospice, in Primrose Terrace, Jarrow, went into liquidation last week following years of financial problems and having to close down temorarily last year after an health watchdog report found a series of problems.

The South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which helped fund the facility, has said it will not leave patients high and dry.

Dr David Hambleton

Kate Hudson, the CCG’s chief finance officer, said the cash previously set aside to fund the hospice was still available to fund end of life services.

Dr David Hambleton, chief executive of the CCG, told its governing body: “Clearly we’re very sad that the local facility has closed.

“We, as an organisation, have tried very hard to support the hospice through its clinical service problems.

“We’ve been trying to support the hospice to come up with a financial model and over the last months we’ve become accustomed to putting in short term arrangements.”

“Theses will continue to be supported by ourselves.”

Despite his disappointment at the closure, Dr Hambleton said the closure could be an ‘opportunity’ to overhaul end of life care in the borough.

He added: “A lot of people in South Tyneside die in hospital. Dying at home has become increasingly rare in the borough and across the country.

“I think this is an opportunity to have a conversation about what to do in end of life care.”

The hospice was temporarily closed in September last year following a Care Quality Commission inspection, which called for improvements in clinical leadership and governance, auditing practices and staff training and development.

A statement on the hospice’s website blamed the four-month shutdown for ‘severely restricted fund raising’.

The hospice has annual operating costs of £2.2m but was only managing to bring in about £1.8m a year.

South Tyneside CCG was one of its biggest backers, contributing more than £860,000 in 2017, according to financial statements available through the Charity Commission.

“It sounds like a chicken and egg situation,” said Jeanette Scott-Thomas, the CCG’s director of nursing, quality and safety.

“The problems that resulted in insolvency wasn’t something that just occurred, but it probably took it to the point of no return.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service