DESPITE the amazing support we have received from the public since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our hospice will not be able to continue delivering first-class patient services unless there is a fundamental change to the way we are funded.
As a much-loved facility in the heart of Wrexham, we have never sat back and waited for handouts, that is not the way Nightingale House operates.
Since the onset of Coronavirus in the UK – with its resulting lockdown and social distancing measures – our traditional fundraising avenues have been decimated, and every effort has been made to seek alternatives and generate fresh income streams.
The continued generosity of the public and our best endeavours will not be enough to stop the hospice losing £1.2million this year, a large portion of that due to the closure of our 11 charity shops and two cafes.
It has also been necessary to cancel all fundraising events from March until December at the earliest.
Our charity shops have started to reopen, and social distancing measures are in place, but it will be some time before we generate enough income to match previous years.
The cafes are scheduled to do the same in early August, but reduced seating capacity will lead to a subsequent drop in profits.
Our events are always wonderfully supported by the community and were expected in our 25th anniversary year to contribute £250,000 towards the provision of patient services.
This vital income source has been taken away from us. Also, since the onset of the pandemic we are already seeing a reduction in the level of donations we receive from the public. Between April and June this year that figure is down £100,000 on the same period in 2019.
Much like tourism, fundraising is seasonal, so July and August would traditionally be peak times.
Autumn through to Spring – with the exception of the festive season – are traditionally very lean periods when people continue to be generous, but we feel the strain.
Nightingale House has successfully overcome many obstacles in the past but the severe financial pressure we are currently experiencing as a consequence of this pandemic provides us with the greatest challenge in our history.
When COVID-19 struck the UK, initial negotiations between our umbrella body Hospice UK and Westminster secured £200million for palliative care facilities, with £6.3m of that amount to be specifically committed to independent charitable hospices in Wales in order to enable the continued delivery of patient services until previous income streams could be restored.
We were awarded £200,000 for the month of April and were expecting to receive the same for May and June to help us through this crisis – a total of £600,000 over three months.
Since that first award, not a penny has been received by Nightingale House Hospice, and communication has broken down. We have heard nothing.
At a time when all sectors of our community are feeling extreme pressure, we ask the Welsh Government to recognise this and support us by releasing the additional funding we were promised at a time when we need it most.
Nobody predicted we would be hit by a global pandemic; the finger cannot be pointed at the Welsh or UK Governments for that.
But where there must be accountability is in the fact this hospice – and the sector in general – has been chronically underfunded for more than a decade in Wales.
In terms of percentage received from Government, Welsh hospices are far worse off than our counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which makes it even more difficult to be resilient to the challenges we are now facing.
Furthermore, with regard to the emergency funds released by Westminster to support independent charitable hospices the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive have confirmed they will be distributing their full allocation in their respective countries, no such confirmation has been made by the Welsh Government for independent charitable hospices in Wales. Why?
Investing this additional funding to the independent charitable hospices in Wales is needed now to provide the financial stability we require in order to plan for the delivery of future patient services.
Hospices in Wales will continue to comply with Welsh Government requirements for monitoring and providing a transparent account of activity and finances. Confirmation of funding allocations for May and June are already overdue and commitment is needed to confirm the support in future months until pre-COVID income streams can be restored.
We need parity with the rest of the UK if we are to continue to provide the best patient care to our community. Equality is vital, but most importantly in the coming weeks there must be discussions and assurances provided on how this essential sector can be supported through this crisis and preserved for the future.