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St Clare’s Hospice boss pledges to get centre back on track

St Clares Hospice chief executive Avril Robinson.
St Clares Hospice chief executive Avril Robinson.

The chief executive of a South Tyneside hospice - which has closed over care concerns - has vowed to rebuild its services and reopen within eight weeks.

Avril Robinson admitted St Clare’s Hospice had hit rock bottom in the context of a long period of necessary transformation and this has resulted in it twice being criticised by inspectorate the Quality Care Commission (CQC) this year.

Avril Robinson.

Avril Robinson.

The first grilling came after an inspection in January – and a CQC team again found fault on some issues of previous concern during a two-day check last week.

Its findings forced the hospice, in Primrose Terrace, Jarrow, and founded in 1987, to voluntarily suspend services.

Read more: St Clare’s Hospice bosses to decide next move after sudden closure

Miss Robinson, 48, appointed in January last year, said a new action plan had been established yesterday and her team would meet with the CQC later today to establish a medium and long-term vision.

By Friday, a plan of action must be delivered to the CQC – the next step to possible reopening in November.

Miss Robinson said: “You would not question the quality of our provision. That is given with care and compassion and has not been compromised at all.

“We have been guilty of not working in a more joined up fashion, but we now have a new energy. It is difficult to set a timescale but we want to resume our services in about eight weeks.

“We are aiming to do a review in the middle of October and that may mean that we are able to open hospital services earlier, but eight weeks is probably about right.”

Miss Robinson, who has been told she has the support of the hospice’s Board of Trustees and senior management team, added: “There is a real sense of renewed energy and commitment. I knew that I was taking the helm of an extensive ship that would take resilience and determination to turn around.

Related content: St Clare’s Hospice announces temporary closure after inspection raises concerns

“We can’t do this isolation, we need the support of our health partners and the community, and we are getting that.

“We knew that there are a number of areas that we have to address and we now have a springboard to make it happen.”

The closure has led to five of the hospice’s seven current patients being relocated, with two continuing to receive care onsite.

Miss Robinson said the CQC, the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England, had identified two main areas of weakness.

These were in behind-the-scenes clinical governance and clinical leadership - neither of which impacted on patient care, she insisted.

Clinical governance includes audits and policy, while clinical leadership includes staff training.

More on St Clare’s: Meeting to decide next steps for hospice

Issues highlighted in both inspections include audit procedures, clinical leadership and staff training and development.

The hospice’s plans include establishing a more tailored care plan that would see it move away from adopting previous policies more suited to non-hospice environments, such as hospitals.

It has also appointed two new specialist posts to improve the way its behind-the-scene governance operates.