Stephen Hepburn MP: Palliative care needs to be brought back to Jarrow through St Clare’s Hospice
As a massive supporter of the much-appreciated facility during my 22 years as an MP I was stunned when told in January that the privately-run charity was shutting.
It seems crazy now, just as it did then, that a cherished, vital Tyneside service was closing.
I've lobbied the NHS, met a Health Minister, the Chief Executive of Hospice UK, and raised it directly with the Prime Minister in Parliament.
I called for St Clare’s staff to be reemployed and the building brought back into use in an open letter to South Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as part of the consultation process on palliative care.
And I've met former donors to discover what it would take to get them to restart rewriting cheques.
Because I want our hospice back up and running so the terminally ill and their families have somewhere caring to go during a time of great pain and stress.
I know from meeting hundreds, possibly thousands, of people how much St. Clare's was valued in our local communities.
So the time for official excuses is over and I demand the South Tyneside NHS CCG rehires staff and reopen.
Primrose Hill is as good a building as anywhere for the hospice and we know from more than 30 years of caring that it worked and could work again.
I bet many of the staff who gave palliative care to ease the passing of the terminally ill, helping people die with dignity, would readily go back.
The issue of resources mustn't be dodged and a fall in voluntary donations undoubtedly put an unbearable financial strain on St Clare’s and was a factor in its own termination.
The local NHS Trust must take some of the blame when it charged excessive rent and a penny-pinching Tory Government imposing deadly austerity delivered hammer blows.
Staff deserved pay rises after years of wage squeezes and pensions must be funded but the Tory government should've picked up the tab instead of presenting St Clare's with a hefty bill.
Since the eight beds in St Clare’s went the burden's fallen on St Benedict’s in Sunderland and St Oswald’s in Newcastle.
Both are excellent but we want a facility in Jarrow too.
Sham consultations often feel as if the final report was written before a single voice was heard. Just as we seen with the axing of the Jarrow walk-in centre and the madness of switching services from South Tyneside to Sunderland hospitals.
Many households, particularly when the occupiers are elderly, don't have cars and taxis are expensive for folk with low incomes.
It breaks my heart to see what is happening to the NHS, our NHS, and it looks again as if we're being treated as second class.
It's why we must stand up even taller and be heard even louder, declaring enough is enough.
I vow here and now to make hospice care in the Jarrow Constituency a central demand in my local election manifesto.
If Labour win that election and Jeremy Corbyn's Prime Minister then I'll be banging on his door, demanding we get back what we should never have lost.
Some people want to die at home and deserve the choice to do so with expert medical support.
But others need somewhere to go and that is the Primrose Hill site I'm fighting to reopen.