Health chiefs urged to come up with more cash for end-of-life care in South Tyneside after St Clare's Hospice closure

Town hall chiefs have called for NHS bosses to put more money into end-of-life care in South Tyneside.
South Tyneside HospitalSouth Tyneside Hospital
South Tyneside Hospital

Plans are being drawn up for the future of palliative services following the closure of Jarrow’s St Clare’s Hospice in January 2019, which left the borough without its own dedicated hospice.

Early proposals have suggested a ‘spoke and hub’ model with a greater focus on ‘spoke’ community services supported by a ‘hub’ which could also provide inpatient beds.

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But suggestions this ‘hub’ could be based at South Tyneside District Hospital have prompted concern the hospital is not an appropriate place to deliver end of life care.

“I’ve been looking at [the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)] accounts”, Coun John McCabe told a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating and Call-In Committee.

“[The CCG had] an operating income of about £277million – somewhere within that budget there is a facility to take some money and prioritise what I feel is a very important subject.”

“Palliative care is it’s not just about someone dying in a particular place, it’s also about the vista and the ambiance [of that place] and there are buildings in the Jarrow and Hebburn area which are more suitable.”

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Coun Anne Hetherington said a hub should provide a single base for services so ‘patients at a very difficult time in their life don’t have to go to several different locations’.

She also cautioned against moving forward with plans too quickly before it was known exactly ‘what went wrong’ at the hospice.

St Clare’s collapsed into insolvency in January after more than 30 years of providing end of life care and in June the Charity Commission, a government watchdog, confirmed it was probing the closure.

Matt Brown, South Tyneside CCG’s director of operations, told the meeting: “We’re proposing, following a lot of debate, that that physical facility should be in the vicinity of the South Tyneside District Hospital site.

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“That does not mean within a ward in the hospital buildings, we recognise you can’t deliver really good hospice care in an acute hospice site.

“But it needs to be close enough, practically, so that we can commission and share with the main site, particularly specialist doctors and nurses – if it’s too far away from the physical hospital site you cannot practically expect staff to cover both areas.”

In 2018 St Clare’s was forced into two temporary closures, once because of concerns raised by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission and once due to staffing shortages.