Future of St Clare's Hospice raised in Parliament as town's MP fights for care to continue

The plight of St Clare's Hospice and the care available to those in their final days has been raised with Prime Minister Theresa May.

By Fiona Thompson
Thursday, 31 January, 2019, 08:29
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn raised the future of St Clare's Hospice with Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn called on the PM to step in after it was announced that St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow has shut.

Confirmation of its closure came last week, when it said it had entered into insolvent liquidation.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Hepburn said: "Next week is World Cancer Day.

"I regret to say that, last week, St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow closed as a result of funding difficulties.

"Will the Prime Minister use her offices to facilitate a meeting between me and the relevant Health Minister to see if we can secure and ensure healthcare for the terminally ill in future in the Jarrow constituency?”

St Clare's Hospice, in Primrose Terrace, Jarrow, looked after terminally ill people for 30 years before it closed earlier this month.

The Prime Minister replied: “I will ensure that the relevant Minister meets the hon. Gentleman and addresses this issue with him.”

A petition has been set up via 38 Degrees calling for the Government to save St Clare's.

Mr Hepburn spoke to St Clare’s Hospice's chief executive Paul Jones-King following the announcement last Monday afternoon and has also written to the Minister of State for the Department of Health.

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He has asked them for immediate assistance following the closure.

Mr Hepburn is also due to meet with South Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Chief Executive Dr David Hambleton tomorrow and Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, in Parliament next week to discuss the situation at St. Clare’s.

St Clare’s Hospice, based in Primrose Terrace, opened in 1987 and offered in-patient services, counselling and well-being day services to adults living with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

Its 50 staff and 100 volunteers have looked after 5,000 families from across South Tyneside at some of the most difficult times of their lives.

It initially closed last year after the Care Quality Commission raised concerns, with the full report revealing a series of issues with its operation and management.

The hospice had annual operating costs of £2.2 million and usually raised £1.8 million each year through voluntary giving, with the balance coming from the contracts with the South Tyneside (CCG).

The hospice said the closure of its in-patient and day services for four months last year severely restricted fundraising.

Mr Hepburn added: "I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that she will facilitate a meeting between myself and the health minister to discuss the closure of St Clare’s and see what can be done to secure and ensure health care for the terminally ill in this area.

“St Clare’s has provided a vital service for our local community for three decades and my thoughts are with the staff and volunteers at the hospice who have lost their jobs.

“These are hugely difficult times for our local health services, who are trying their best to keep services going despite more demand on services and the government’s relentless austerity programme.

“On the evening of the news of the closure I immediately spoke with the chief executive of St Clare’s and wrote to the health minister and have further meetings planned with the chief executives from the South Tyneside NHS CCG and Hospice UK as the loss of St Clare’s is a huge blow to our local community.”