War of words break out at hospice over NHSWI funding

Bethesda Care Home and Hospice in Stornoway has called on the health board in the Western Isles and the Scottish Government “to step up and support the Hospice to ensure it survival”.

By Peter Urpeth - Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 6:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 6:24 pm
Carol Somerville of Bethesda Hospice, where a spat has flamed into life once more over funding.
Carol Somerville of Bethesda Hospice, where a spat has flamed into life once more over funding.

Carol J Somerville, Bethesda Care Home and Hospice’s General Manager made the remarks in a statement issued by the organisation on Tuesday.

She also confirmed that it had also been left “absolutely devastated” by news of the broken sub-sea power transmission cable linking Lewis and Harris to the mainland saying it would have “a major impact” on the hospice’s funds “and on our community as a whole.”

She said: “We are well supported by some of the wind farm developments – mainly Point and Sandwick Trust, but also Tolsta Community Development Fund and the Pentland Road Development, who together donate in the region of £75k per year towards our costs.

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“These organisations have made such a valuable contribution towards the hospice funds and only with their assistance have we managed to stay open the last few years.”

Ms Somerville said that the loss of the funding from the wind farms comes at a time when the hospice cannot hold any of its normal fundraising events, and said that that will have “a massive impact on the future of the hospice,” which she said has to raise almost £400k a year.

“The funding situation with NHS Western Isles (NHSWI) has not been resolved”, Ms Somerville added, and said that it is “now time for the local Health Board and the Scottish Government to step up and support us to ensure our survival.”

“The funding we receive from NHS Western Isles is not sufficient to sustain us, at present they are only funding 25 per-cent of overall costs. The other 14 Hospices in Scotland receive almost 50 per-cent of their funds.”

Ms Somerville concluded: “If we lose the hospice it is our community who would suffer. Imagine if it was not there – the gap would be enormous. People would suffer. The risk is real.”

But NHSWI rejected the claims made by Bethesda in its statement, and said that the NHS had funded £99k to Bethesda during lock-down to support the loss of income, and said that it was not in a position to provide further funding, in addition to the funding provided on an annual basis.

A spokesperson for NHSWI said: “NHS Western Isles would reiterate that the delivery of high quality and effective palliative and end of life care is a key strategic priority.

“Our clinical teams and external partners deliver a range of quality and person-centred care and support services for patients and their families at their most difficult times. The Board values and appreciates all those who contribute to this work, including Bethesda.

“The Board has an obligation, and is committed to ensuring that locally based hospice care is available to members of our community, and we would like to reassure members of the public that we are fully committed to and able to ensure the ongoing provision locally.”

NHSWI also stated that its contribution to the funding of Bethesda had been widely covered in the media a number of months ago, and said that NHS Boards/Trusts “do not pay full costs of charitable hospices.”

In its response to Bethesda’s statement, NHSWI highlighted a report from Hospice UK which it claims states that ‘the average government percentage contribution to hospices in Scotland was 35 per cent’ – “not the 50 per-cent implied” by Bethesda in its statement, and added that by its own calculations, based on data it claimed had been provided by Bethesda, the percentage contribution from NHSWI to Bethesda Hospice is currently just over 40 per cent.

The spokesperson continued: “Bethesda has £1.4m annual guaranteed income from the Comhairle and NHS (covering both the care home and hospice).

“NHS Western Isles has worked closely with Bethesda Hospice over the years to ensure that the best possible outcomes are being achieved by both parties, and at each review, agree the level of funding for the next period.

“An improved funding offer was tabled a number of months ago by the health board, which was considered to be a fair and reasonable offer covering the next three years in the first instance, commencing April 2019. Bethesda unfortunately rejected that offer.”

In a later statement by Bethesda Hospice this week, in response to the announcement by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar of the launch of an emergency fund set-up to support charities and local organisations, who in turn provide support to vulnerable people who have been hit by the loss of grants from the community winds farms, Carol Somerville commented: “We are relived that some action is being taken to help the charities and those in the community that have been affected by the deficit in funding from the wind farm developments. as a result of the subsea cable fault.

“We will now be submitting an application for funding as soon as the process opens.”