Sue Ryder hospices across the UK could close - here’s why

Sue Ryder, a UK palliative care and bereavement support charity, says the country could “lose its hospices”, as UK charities are estimated to face a £4 billion shortfall in the next three months, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sue Ryder is the one of the UK’s largest suppliers of palliative care, looking after more than 5,000 people annually.  

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The charity has predicted a £12 million loss of funds in the next three months and has warned that it will be forced to close its hospices and hospice-at-home services, sending the people it cares for back to the NHS, if it doesn't receive urgent government funding.  

What has caused this funding gap?

The news comes after the mass temporary closure of many charity shops, as well as the cancellation of fundraising events, due to the ongoing pandemic. 

This has also led other charities such as Cancer Research UK, Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society to disclose the serious financial difficulties they now face.

The cancellation of large fundraising events, such as the London Marathon, has lost Sue Ryder an estimated £200,000 in donations. Additionally, a decrease in investment funds in the stock market crash has also caused the charity to lose £2 million from its investment fund alongside a monthly loss of  £440,000 retail profits.

Previous financial difficulties 

This loss is a devastating blow to a charity, which was already facing financial difficulty prior to the outbreak, due to a decrease in funding from the NHS. In 2012 the charity's income, supplied by the NHS, fell from roughly 55 per cent to 30 per cent.

Speaking about the financial strain, Chief Executive of Sue Ryder, Heidi Travis, said, “To close at this time would be crazy [...] we know we ought to be taking patients from NHS trusts.” 

She explained that without financial help, palliative care patients receiving support from the charity as well as “hundreds of people being cared for in the community” would have to return to the care of the NHS.  

“The country will lose its hospices at a time when they are needed most,” she said.

“At this time it would be ridiculous”.

What has been the government’s response?

Sue Ryder has called on the Department of Health and Social Care to provide a rescue package of £200 million to ensure the nation’s hospices can continue to run. 

Other major providers of hospice care, such as Hospice Care UK and children’s charity Together for Short Lives, alongside Marie Curie, have also called for an immediate support package from the government.

While Health Secretary, Matt Hancock stated on Sunday (5 April) he intends to provide more financial support for hospices, so far an official announcement detailing plans for such funding has yet to be made.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said, “We are absolutely committed to keeping hospices open during this time and are working closely with the NHS, Together for Short Lives and Hospice UK on an appropriate national response. We will be setting out our hospice support package shortly.”

Public plea for support

The CEO of Sue Ryder has now launched a public plea for funds, “This is a plea and no less, we cannot wait any longer. Our doctors and nurses are working night and day to provide end of life care to more people, now and in the coming weeks, than ever before. We are a critical frontline support service in the fight against coronavirus yet we are on the brink of closure.”