New hospice site to be unveiled 'within weeks' after closure of St Clare's

The proposed base for a new hospice service in South Tyneside could be unveiled within weeks.

NHS chiefs in the borough have been working on plans since the closure about a year ago of the former St Clare’s Hospice, in Jarrow, after it collapsed into insolvency.

Draft proposals drawn up last year suggested a new facility for palliative and end of life care should be moved to a new location ‘within the vicinity of’ South Tyneside District Hospital, although a grassroots campaign has repeatedly called for the St Clare’s site, in Primrose Terrace, to be reopened.

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“Identifying a base will happen in the next few weeks,” said Dr Jon Tose, clinical director at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The former St Clare's Hospice buildingThe former St Clare's Hospice building
The former St Clare's Hospice building

“Implementing will take longer, depending on what site is chosen and whatever site is chosen that site will need to be made into a hospice.”

He added the former site in Primrose Hill had been ‘explored’, but it was decided ‘challenges’ around staffing meant a base closer to the hospital was the best option.

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Dr Tose was speaking at a meeting of the CCG’s governing body, which also formally received a petition demanding bosses ‘return palliative care to St Clare’s hospice site’

The online petition attracted 3,232 signatures, although some of these were found to have originated from more than 50 different countries outside the UK.

The former St Clare’s Hospice was forced to close for six weeks in 2018 because of a shortage of staff. Care chiefs have previously defended proposals to move palliative care services to South Shields to be closer to staff based at the district hospital.

Critics have praised the ‘tranquility’ on offer to patients and families at the former Primrose Terrace site and questioned whether this could be recreated near the hospital.

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“We may end up doing something which is only done in a handful of other places in the country, but if that is the right thing for South Tyneside then we should be doing that,” said Dr Matthew Walmsley, chairman of the CCG.

He added: “It’s about the ability to provide enough staff to cover when things go wrong and that was something which, when St Clare’s was here, was struggled with.

“That is why the proposal is that this bricks and mortar building should be somewhere it is easier for staff to come to in the middle of the night when things go wrong.”