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Closure off, but new plan means beds at risk


Medical director Dr Claire Butler, chairman of trustees Dr Richard Morley and Julian Brazier MP, who chaired the meeting
Medical director Dr Claire Butler, chairman of trustees Dr Richard Morley and Julian Brazier MP, who chaired the meeting

The Pilgrims Hospice’s inpatient centre in Canterbury will stay open – but bosses are refusing to say how many of its 16 beds will be spared the axe. Trustees’ chairman Dr Richard Morey said the organisation was reacting to the public outcry over the proposed closure of the entire Canterbury inpatient unit. But the hospice insists it needs time to work on the detail of it plans before going public with them. Spokesman Nick Evans said:

“We have asked for some patience to allow us to quietly get on with that task. Pilgrims will not be making any further comment around this issue until the organisation has had time to consider its future plans.”

Canterbury and Whitstable MP Julian Brazier says he is delighted the hospice will retain beds at its three sites. He said:

“The key issue now will be how many beds are kept, and that will reflect, inevitably, succc at fundraLsing, so I appeal to all of those who care about the future of the hospice to get behind the plan.”

The reversal follows a torrent of opposition to the original proposal to close the hospice, in London Road, which has 16 beds. Dr Morey said:

“We have listened to the clearly expressed views of local people and recognise the desire for a change of emphasis in our plans as longas these can be staffed and funded. Over the summer months, the hospice will keep you updated about its plans and how people can help. We are planning to do this through the media, our web-site and meetings with supporter groups. Please give us the time, patience and understanding that we now need to establish how we can achieve our common aim of maintaining beds in Canterbury as well as in Thanet and Ashford. We need your support now more than ever. Meanwhile, as well as planning for the future, please be assured we will continue with business as usual, providing a gold-standard service for local people and their loved ones at the end of life.”

Vicki Radford listens to the-answer to her question
Vicki Radford listens to the-answer to her question

Last week, trustees admitted they were “extremely concerned” about the strong feelings expressed by hundreds who attended an emotionally charged public meeting at the Canterbury Academy. Hundreds of frustrated campaigners battling to save the unit stormed out of the meeting on Friday, May 30, after Dr Morey said it was not a consultative meeting, but merely a presentation of the trust’s position. A Facebook campaign group attracting 13,000 followers and a petition with 18,00 signatures increased pressure on bosses to rethink the proposals. Until last week, they had stood their ground over the planned closure, despite growing pleas for them to change their minds. They claimed the centre, which opened in 1982, was “no longer fit for purpose” and the closure would save £500,000 a year. Instead, they had wanted to expand hospice care in the community, with staff visiting patients in their own homes, nursing homes and hospitals.

We will campaign: Editor’s comment

When we learned Pilgrims Hospice trustees had decided to close inpatient beds at their Canterbury site, we shared the shock expressed by many in and around the city. Our front page urged them to think again, but bosses remained steadfast in their belief the site was not fit for purpose and would need substantial investment to maintain high standards of care. The chief executive likened the situation to an old car that needs more and more money being poured into it just to keep it on the road. The charity, battling a financial deficit, also believed a switch to caring for those that were dying in their own homes would allow them to help far more people. They admitted their initial announcement was mis handled and that they compounded their mistake with a public meeting designed to put across their vision of the future rather than listen to their supporters’ views.

This week the PR disaster continues as they refuse to say how many beds will be saved. Our letters page was one place to measure the strength of the community’s feelings, as well as a Facebook page that attracted 13,000 followers and a petition with 18,500 signatures.  The goodwill built up over three decades was perilously close to being lost forever. So the news the trustees have decided to think again has to be welcomed. This is a brave decision that now puts the onus back on the rest of us. We need to play our part by upping our efforts to raise money to keep the finances of OUR hospice in the black. We need to donate whatever we can and raise funds whenever we can.

The hospice is a former charity of the year of the Kentish Gazette and this newspaper, along with its sister papers the Whitstable Gazette, Herne Bay Gazette and Faversham News, will throw its weight behind everyone’s efforts. From long-distance bike rides to coffee mornings, from wheelie bin races to moonlit walks, we want to know about your efforts so that we can publicise them and encourage others to do the same. If the trustees of Pilgrims Hospice tell us how much they need to raise, we promise to campaign to help them reach their target.

Herne Bay Gazette, June 19th 2014

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