10:50am Sunday 25th March 2012
By Siobhan Ryan, Health Reporter
Having to close the day hospice at the Martlets last year was a tough decision but one that Caroline Lower feels had to be done in order to protect the rest of the hospice’s services.
Now, six months on, the focus is on looking to the future and making the best use of the resources they have.
Once again, with the current financial climate, the hospice is expecting a tough year but Mrs Lower believes it is in a position where it will be able to cope.
The hospice has reduced its target for the amount of money it expects to bring in this year from £4.8 million to what staff believe is a “more realistic” £4.3 million.
This reflects the significant drop in income from legacies, which this year was £600,000 compared to £1.4 million two years ago.
It is difficult to know the reason for the dip, although theories have included more people cashing in their insurance policies and selling up to help their families now rather than wait until after their deaths.
The impact of the recession on house prices and investments has had an effect.
The Martlets also has a relatively small catchment area compared to other hospices in the county, who can take in several surrounding towns and villages across a wider area.
Brighton and Hove has a high number of charities per head compared to other similarly sized cities – a rate of 2.33 per 1,000 – meaning that there is a lot of pressure to generate cash.
Staff are continuing to urge people to remember the hospice in their wills and have recently introduced a new advertising campaign on the city’s buses.
However, staff are also starting to move away from too much reliance on legacy income and focusing on others areas instead, such as expanding its lottery, focusing on its charity shops and furniture warehouse and its commercial Martlets Care agency.
Mrs Lower said the hospice was also planning to make more use of its more than 500 volunteers to provide more support for patients both at the hospice and in the community.
She said: “There are no plans to bring the day hospice back as it was but we do have plenty of ideas and projects in hand.
"This includes one-off art and craft sessions, a drop in session once a week and a possible Sunday lunch club.
"The drop in session would be manned by volunteers although a rota of staff such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists will be on hand to offer practical help.
“We are also planning a befriending service where specially trained volunteers can offer help and support to patients at home.”
The hospice also wants to get patients and carers more involved in the plans and have a say on any future developments.
It has also been working with Age UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Sussex Community Trust about setting up a welfare benefits drop in session for cancer patients.
Mrs Lower said: “We need to look at the resources we’ve got but like the NHS we are effectively looking to do more but with less money.
“Inpatients will not notice a huge change but we are looking at how we work and finding new ways to use staff without compromising our standards in any way.”
Mrs Lower said there would always be a need for inpatient beds at the hospice and the specialist care it provides but she also wants to develop services in the community.
She said: “I would love to see the Hospice at Home service growing as it is becoming increasingly valued.
“We also want to provide support to patients and carers at home.”
Just under 30% of the hospice’s funding comes from the NHS and Mrs Lower said she was expecting the same again this year.
Mrs Lower said: “Every year is a leap of faith and we continue to rely on the generous support of the community.
“However, there is a ceiling on what people can give and we recognise that.
“There are also a lot of charities asking for help.
“Getting the funding we need will always be a challenge but we will continue to work at it.
“We have been here for 15 years and have looked after almost 23,000 patients during that time.
“We are a vital part of the community and we are committed to our vision that everybody is entitled to a good and dignified death.”
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