"It's been a massive hit": Fears for Yorkshire's hospices as fundraising events still on hold

Hospices could be at risk of a funding crisis after the pandemic due to charity events being cancelled en masse over the past year, according to a leader at one of Yorkshire’s hospices.

The chief executive of St Leonard’s said: “It’s been a massive hit. Lockdown was announced, the shops were closed, events were cancelled. Picture: St Leonard's lit up to mark the first anniversary of lockdown last month.

St Leonard’s Hospice in York only achieved 50 per cent of its fundraising target in the last financial year, which it says is due to the closure of charity shops and cancellation of fundraising events.

The hospice needs some £5.8m each year to run its services, which include inpatient care for people with terminal illnesses, home care, and bereavement counselling, 70 per cent of which comes from fundraising.

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Emma Johnson, chief executive of St Leonard’s said: “It’s been a massive hit. Lockdown was announced, the shops were closed, events were cancelled.

“We got a massive increase in the number of people who needed care from us.

“We’ve had all that uncertainty, and we saw such a massive increase in demand from our services.”

Services that have been impacted by the pandemic at the hospice include its bereavement counselling service, which is only just able to resume face-to-face services.

Ms Johnson said the increase in demand has come from people who didn’t want to enter the hospice during lockdown so required extra home care in their final days.

She said: “In the first wave, these were people who were living at home, they had a life limiting condition so they were not curable. They were then contracting covid and dying, really quickly, within hours.”

In the second wave of the pandemic, some £125m was pledged to hospices from Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) funding, distributed by charity Hospices UK.

But that funding agreement only ran until the end of March, leaving future funding uncertain.

Jonathan Ellis, director of advocacy at Hospice UK, said: “Covid has hit hospices hard. Charity shops, marathons and other community fundraising events are the lifeblood of hospices - bringing in approximately 70 per cent of their income on average. The closure and cancellation of those during the pandemic has had a huge impact.

“But as the country dealt with rising numbers of covid infections and deaths, hospices nationwide stepped up to the frontline to support our colleagues in the NHS by relieving the pressure on hospitals and in care homes.

“Recognising the critical role that local hospices could play in supporting people and helping to free up hospitals to focus on the COVID response, the government stepped in to buy capacity from hospices to make sure vital services for people affected by terminal and life-limiting illness could continue, for which we are very grateful.

“But the stark reality is, without the generosity of the British public, this essential care could not continue.”

The DHSC were approached for comment.