Bethesda Hospice makes urgent appeal for new funding offer

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The Trustees of Bethesda Hospice have contacted local councillors on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Board Members of Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB) to make an “urgent appeal” for “a new, agreed, sustainable, proposal” for the funding of the hospice to be submitted to the IJB meeting on February 27th.

The move comes after the Trustees claimed that they had met with the IJB’s Chief Officer earlier in January and had been told that no additional funding was available.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Bethesda Hospice said this week that the funding proposal they had received from the IJB would provide an increase of £10k per year and with the “additional proviso” that if the Hospice has a deficit in its funding at the end of the financial year, the IJB “may assist with part of this deficit”.

Bethesda’s spokesperson said that the IJB’s offer was “not sustainable” for the Hospice and “jeopardises the future of Hospice Care being available on the island”.

In their statement Bethesda also claimed that NHS Western Isles and the IJB were only funding 25 per-cent of the Hospice’s costs – half, they claim, of the amount recommended by the Scottish Government.

In addition, due to what they claim to be the under funding of the Hospice since 2006/07 by NHS Western Isles, the Hospice is carrying a deficit which they say has now been “inherited by the IJB”, and Bethesda’s Trustees have called for an additional £100k in funding to ‘stabilise’ its finances and to ensure “this specialist service is available for our community”.

In a statement issued in response to the calls, a spokesperson for NHS Western Isles said that the health board “disagrees with the content and accuracy of a number of the points” made by Bethesda Hospice and concluded: “…Ongoing debate of this nature in the public domain is not helpful in terms of the relationships between organisations and we are therefore not prepared to comment further on this matter.”

Last October, NHS Western Isles (NHSWI) did issue a statement addressing some of the claims made by Bethesda Hospice with regard to its finance and the funding they have offered to the Hospice, and again highlighted those points in its statement issued this week.

NHSWI had previously stated that Bethesda receives “£1.4m annual guaranteed income from the Comhairle and NHS (covering both the care home and hospice)”, and said that they had “worked closely” with Bethesda Hospice “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”.

“The Health Board has put forward”, their previous statement concluded: “a fair and reasonable offer covering the next three years in the first instance, commencing April 2019. It is disappointing that the Bethesda Board rejected that offer”.

Last week, the SNP group of councillors on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar issued a statement backing the Hospice and expressing “frustration” at what they described as “the lack of urgency of the Integrated Joint Board to fund Bethesda Hospice what it needs [sic]”, with SNP Group Leader, Cllr Gordon Murray wondering if “…this is an attempt to shut the hospice by starving it of funds remains to be seen”.

Cllr Murray urged the local community “to put pressure on the decision-makers” in the Integrated Joint Board and the NHS Western Isles, “who are”, he claimed, “supposed to be acting in your best interest, to right this wrong and fund Bethesda what it needs before it closes.”

SNP Councillor for the Loch a’ Tuath ward, John A Maciver, stated: “We are appalled at the way the IJB are treating this issue.

“They blame the previous regime for the underfunding of Bethesda but refuse to rectify the situation which we find disappointing to say the least.”

But, NHS Western Isles accused the councillors of making statements that were “incorrect and unhelpfully damaging” and repeated their vow to make no further public comment on the issue.