Call for probe into finances following collapse of South Tyneside hospice
The troubled St Clare’s Hospice shut in January after financial problems forced it into liquidation.
And now, as well as urging the Charity Commission to look into the failure of the facility, town hall chiefs have raised the prospect of inquiries being escalated further.
The call was made by Coun Rob Dix, chairman of South Tyneside Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Coordinating and Call-in Committee.
He said: “What I want to recommend is that we do is write to the charity commission with a series of questions about the closure of St Clare’s Hospice and demanding, if necessary, a fraud squad investigation into what happened.”
However, despite his intervention, Coun Dix, who was speaking at last week’s committee meeting, was also keen to add: “St Clare’s and palliative care is not a council function.”
After more than three decades providing end of life care, administrators were called into St Clare’s Hospice, which was previously based in Primrose Terrace, in January this year.
According to a report prepared for NHS bosses, St Clare’s Hospice was funded ‘primarily via charitable contributions’.
It also received about £730,000 a year from the health service, although, according to financial statements available through the Charity Commission, South Tyneside CCG backed it to the tune of £860,000 in 2017.
Also speaking at the meeting, Coun John McCabe said mistakes made in the running and scrutiny of the hospice should never be repeated.
He said: “What’s past is past, it’s nothing to do with the council and the lack of information and communication should never happen again.
“We need to look at what we’re going to have in the future, not what has occured – the trustees are the ones who were responsible.”
Since the eight-bed hospice was closed, services have been provided by St Benedict’s Hospice, in Sunderland, and St Oswald’s Hospice, in Newcastle.
Care chiefs from South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group are currently running an ‘engagement’ with the public over plans for the future of palliative and end of life care in South Tyneside.
This is due to end and deliver a report in June.
The Charity Commission did not respond to request for comment.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service