Health chief reveals ‘last-ditch bid’ to save South Tyneside’s St Clare’s Hospice

Last ditch attempts to stop St Clare’s Hospice closing have been revealed by NHS chiefs.

Money problems forced the hospice, in Primrose Terrace, Jarrow, into liquidation in January - following more than 30 years providing end of life care.

Speaking to members of South Tyneside Council, bosses from South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) told how they thrashed out a rescue plan, only for it to be rejected by administrators.

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Matt Brown, the CCG’s director of operations, said: “The first indication something had started to go awry was summer last year.

“The hospice approached us and said they needed to close for three weeks because there was a gap in doctor cover but when we got to talking about it, it was clear there were some other issues.”

The hospice faced two temporary closures in the run up to the final decision to shut the doors.

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

St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.
St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.
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Later that year, in September, a damning inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) branded it ‘inadequate’ and led to a three-month closure to enable it to get back on track.

Mr Brown told council’s overview and scrutiny coordinating and call-in committee: “It was good in terms of being caring but, overall, the care was inadequate and the CQC gave the hospice two choices – it could close or could be closed.

“From September to December we were, day in day out, in that hospice to improve training, quality and standards, and, in the first week of January, the CQC said it was able to reopen.”

During the three-month closure, a new chief executive, Paul Jones-King, was installed, who in turn appointed a director of finance shortly after the hospice reopened in January.

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But, following an ‘extraordinary meeting’ with CCG chiefs it was revealed the hospice was insolvent.

Despite the best efforts of care bosses to come up with a plan, Mr Brown said they could not find a solution acceptable to administrators.

He said: “From that moment, the hospice had to close.

“These are difficult times in the public sector, many organisations are facing difficult times, but normally where we get in such a situation the organisation will come and talk to us.

“But unfortunately St Clare’s weren’t clear until it was time to call in the insolvency administrators.

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“No one could have done anything about it. The hospice] didn’t know anything about it, how could anyone else?”

Coun James Sewell blamed the hospice’s collapse on the ‘trustees who were running the show’.

Coun John McCabe added the circumstances of the closure would be a matter for the Charity Commission to investigate.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service