The “funding model is broken” and the government must take heed before deep cuts are made at Bolton Hospice, managers have warned.

A debate at Westminster revealed that the well-loved hospice on Chorley New Road is running at a £1.2million loss and could be forced to cut nearly a third of beds.

Now, speaking exclusively to the Bolton News, chief executive Dr Leigh Vallance says she believes fundamental changes must be made or the cuts could be made as early as the next financial year.

She said: “Cutting six beds would have a massive impact, it means over 2,000 bed days lost to the people of Bolton and that means an extra 2,000-bed pressure on the foundation trust in Bolton.

“It’s all part of trying to demonstrate that the funding model for hospices is broken.”

She added: “We will have to reduce our staffing capacity because the majority of our costs are staffing costs and I cannot continue to bear a £1.2million deficit unless we get to be able to negotiate a better deal with the NHS.

“I have no alternative otherwise we will become bankrupt. Obviously I can’t lead a charity that doesn’t function wisely or safely and those are the dreadful consequences that we’re facing.”

Bolton Hospice runs a total of 16 beds along with a range of other services including a Hospice at Home service and Welfare Hub.

It relies on a combination of private donations and fundraising, some of it left in people’s wills, with contributions from the government via the NHS.

The Bolton News: Messages of thanks left from patients and familesMessages of thanks left from patients and familes (Image: Newsquest)

But the scale of the crisis became clear earlier this month when Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi revealed the £1.2million loss the hospice was running at during a Westminster Hall debate.
Dr Vallance said: “I think hospices tend to be neglected because we’re reliable, we’re dependable, we’re high quality and we tend to be forgotten.
“The NHS and our other colleagues are focusing on the immediate pressures, the things that are failing and falling apart.The Bolton News: Dr VallenceDr Vallence (Image: Newsquest)

“And so although we’ve been raising this with the NHS for a decade nothing has happened nothing has changed and now we are at the point of crisis.

“And its not just Bolton Hospice, it’s every hospice in the country that’s having to deal with this.”

The chief executive has warned that given the strain on the health service, the cuts could see Bolton Hospice cut back on beds which in turn would have a knock-on effect on hundreds of would-be hospice patients.

The Bolton News: The hospice cares for hundreds of patients every yearThe hospice cares for hundreds of patients every year (Image: Newsquest)

Dr Vallance said: “The model needs to be fixed and I think the NHS needs to recognise that it needs to be fixed.

“Hospice UK quotes that most hospices receive 34 per cent contribution to the cost of their nursing and staff teams.

“We receive 27 per cent, that’s a big gap and we’re not asking for vast amounts of money, we’re not asking for the whole £1.2million.

“We’re asking for that contract to be honoured and that we bring £2 to the table to match their £1 and all we need is an extra £400,000, which in NHS terms is small change, they could find it down the back of the sofa.”

Dr Vallance says that she believes people can help the crisis hit hospice sector by lobbying their MPs and local politicians to emphasise just how much the service means to them and their loved ones.

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Other staff and volunteers have warned of what could lie ahead of help is not forthcoming.

Ward manager Helen Newberry said: “If we were to cut the number of beds there would be a significant drop in the number of patients we could care for.

She added: “It’s hugely important because people often say to us that they don’t want to end their days in hospital.

“If people have cancer then they’ve spent enough time in hospital so for some people it’s a relief for them when they’re taken to a place like this.

"The nurses in hospital don't always have the time to do what we do and make sure patients and their families have that bit of extra special support."

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