St Luke’s Matron Wendy Wilson (pictured above) has spoken on behalf of the Hospice

St Luke’s Hospice exists to provide the best quality care possible to local people, at what is often the most difficult and vulnerable time of their lives. Local people – mums and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters – have been turning to St Luke’s for nearly 30 years now. The most important thing for all of us at the Hospice is to protect that care and ensure that we can continue to grow and improve the service we provide. But, we know that we can only achieve that if St Luke’s fundraising team is able to raise the money needed to pay for it.

There have been some claims made in the local press this week about our financial standing and I want to take the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Hospice. The last three years have seen us struggle to bring in enough money to cover the costs of our charity. So it is true that St Luke’s is in a difficult situation and we must work quickly to find a way forward that secures our future as the local hospice service for our community, but we are not in financial crisis. I can also assure you that our CEO was not on a six figure salary. The staff receiving the highest salaries are those in charge of patient care.

I am working very closely with other members of the Senior Management Team and our Board of Trustees to create our future plans and, as soon as they are ready, we will share them in full. We are a local charity, funded by our community. We will offer full transparency and openness about our plans for the future of local hospice care, and our finances, to that community.

What I can say now is that I am proud to be Matron at the Hospice and I will work tirelessly today, tomorrow and every day to ensure that St Luke’s is able to provide the care and support we would all want for our loved ones. No-one is more important than our patients and their families. Every decision we make will be made with their best interests in mind. What we ask is that local people continue to give St Luke’s their trust, their friendship and their support.”

Official statement from St Luke’s

Since 1988, St Luke’s (Cheshire) Hospice has been providing palliative care to local people, supporting them in ways which go beyond the scope and funding of the NHS. Operating within the charity sector is extremely challenging for a variety of reasons, and hospices face an added barrier because there is often an assumption that our services are government funded.

The Hospice was established following a fundraising campaign in the mid 1980’s which was championed by local people, and 29 years later we continue to be supported in this way.  In fact, over 80% of our care is funded by donations.

Five years ago we started to see a change in giving trends; upon further investigation it showed that the challenges national charities faced 10 years ago in the financial crisis were starting to be felt by local charities like ourselves.

Our Board of Trustees began to explore options to address this downturn and created a working financial plan to focus on our increasing gap in income. St Luke’s Trustees agreed that investing in bold fundraising initiatives to develop sustainable income was the option. So it was decided to invest a pre-agreed amount of our reserves into these initiatives, meaning there would be an agreed and planned financial deficit for two consecutive years.

Alongside this, we continued to see a reduction in income from more traditional fundraising streams, such as gifts left to us in wills. Consequently the combination of a pre-agreed deficit, a dip in income from traditional fundraising methods and new initiatives not performing as we had hoped, it means that our financial deficit is higher than planned.

Throughout this process we have been in regular contact with the Charity Commission. This is a sign of good practice in the charity sector and will help us to understand what we could have done differently, as our duty to our supporters and local community.

These combining factors have led the Hospice to be in a very difficult position, needing to make cost savings. To do this in the most effective and safe way possible, we began an Organisational Change Programme and made some significant non-salary cost savings. Following this more money needed to be saved, so we asked staff to share their employment preferences with us which included a reduction in hours and voluntary redundancy. This has resulted in in 4.49 full time equivalent roles being made voluntary redundant, 0.89 of these roles were patient facing.

We are still in a difficult financial position and our Organisational Change Programme will continue in the coming months, to ensure we deliver a balanced budget next financial year 2017/18.