EXCLUSIVE: Future of Britain’s oldest hospice at stake if it cannot find millions in weeks

Britain’s oldest hospice has been plunged into a crippling financial crisis by the coronavirus pandemic – with its boss saying its future is at stake if it cannot raise millions.

The 129-year-old Royal Trinity Hospice, in Clapham, looks likely to be short of £3million even if fundraising is back to normal within weeks.

It has had to close its shops, which provide a massive portion of its income. And events which it relies on for public fundraising, such as the London Marathon, have been postponed.

Staff have also been in the front line of the fight against the disease – putting their own healths at risk to help families at a time of trauma and grief.

But in contrast to NHS medics, who have no fears over their income in the next few months, hospice employees face an uncertain future if their charilty struggles for cash.

Royal Trinity Hospice has launched an urgent appeal for funds after the temporary closure last week of its 32 London-based shops and the cancellation of all planned fundraising activities.

The hospice is urging supporters in the communities it serves across all of Wandsworth and parts of Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Merton, Hammersmith & Fulham, Lambeth and Richmond to come to its aid.

Up to 300 donors have already contributed since the appeal was launched on Friday, raising over £60,000 in its first four days – but that is a fraction of what it must collect.

The charity has been forced to cancel this year’s Wandsworth Friends of Royal Trinity Hospice Summer Garden Party, which last year raised £87,000.

Trinity’s shops, whose income last year brought in £8.5m of the £15 million a  year it costs to run the hospice annually, were closed on Thursday 19 March, for the safety of customers and volunteers.

Chief executive Dallas Pounds said: “The stark reality is that the future of Trinity is at stake.

We are facing dramatic cuts to the level of support and care we can offer. We are calling on our supporters and those in our local community to help ensure our survival.

“In the coming months, our doctors and nurses will be needed more than ever as the NHS faces the biggest challenge it has ever seen. The population of 750,000 Londoners for whom we are the only provider of specialist end of life and palliative care will need our support and expertise.

“Through careful management, we have some contingencies, but these will not keep us open indefinitely. As always, our incredible staff and volunteers are rising to the challenge and I cannot thank them, and our Board of Trustees, enough for their commitment.

“I am overwhelmed at the level of support we have seen. I am appealing to our local community to help us so we can continue to be here for patients and their families for years to come.”

St Christopher`s, which cares for more than 1,000 people in the community every day and up to 38 people on wards in the Sydenham building, has had to suspend many social groups and activities, and limit the visitors to patients.  .

Care director Amanda Mayo said: “We are determined to do everything in our power to keep providing the people of South-east London the care that they deserve at the end of their lives, despite the challenging times but in line with Government advice.

“We have been giving people advice and care over the telephone or over Skype, giving reassurance in uncertain times to people in their own homes and care homes.  Our healthcare staff are of course still looking after patients in person where it`s essential, using additional personal protective equipment as necessary and adapting what we do every day to keep pace with Government and Public Health England guidelines around the Covid-19 virus.

`We are humbled and proud that so many of our staff and volunteers are working way above and beyond to ensure that the right care is still there for patients and their families. This is despite trying circumstances and higher than normal levels of staff absence;.

“Some staff have underlying health conditions which means they need to work remotely. Some are self-isolating as a precaution.

“We have an amazing volunteer army which is now busy phoning local people who may be feeling especially isolated, offering a listening ear as well as practical tips on how to try to manage worries around current affairs.”

It has also set up support for its own staff and volunteers who may be feeling anxious or worried about the situation.

To donate to Trinity’s appeal, please visit www.royaltrinityhospice.london/urgent-appeal

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