The Sue Ryder South Oxfordshire Palliative Care Hub is planning to close its hospice inpatient unit at Nettlebed at the end of March 2020. The charity will continue to provide specialist palliative hospice care in the home, in the South Oxfordshire community.
Sue Ryder has entered a process of formal consultation with affected employees over the proposal to close its inpatient unit after a thorough assessment of a number of factors including patient data and costs.
It costs Sue Ryder £3.1 million a year to deliver a range of palliative care services across South Oxfordshire. The charity receives just over a quarter of that cost in the form of statutory funding and works to source the remaining £2.3 million from donations and sales via its national retail operation.
As is the case for all hospice providers in the UK, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver services through predominantly charitable funds and Sue Ryder has a responsibility to ensure that its limited resources are distributed in the most effective way for the most number of patients.
The charity’s intention to close the Nettlebed site has been well documented for some time. The original decision to re-locate was made as a result of the high costs of running a listed building, paired with the challenges of maintaining a care environment in a building which was not built to be a healthcare facility. During the charity’s search for an alternative location for its inpatient unit, some clear patient trends became apparent.
The South Oxfordshire Palliative Care Hub’s Hospice at Home service now in its second year, has so far supported 539 patients. In a recent survey* of the general public, over 70% of respondents stated that they would prefer to die at home and Sue Ryder continues to see demand increase for its Hospice at Home service in South Oxfordshire.
As members of the local community increasingly choose to be cared for at home, there has been a steady decline in the number of patients being referred to the inpatient unit which led to the charity halving the amount of inpatient beds it operates in April 2019.
The numbers of patients coming into the inpatient unit has continued to decrease since April 2019, with an average of four people being cared for at any one time. After careful investigation with referral partners, the charity feels assured that the decline in patient numbers is due to a decrease in demand.
Due to staffing regulations, the same numbers of staff are needed for an inpatient unit with eight beds as are needed for an inpatient unit with four beds and so the inpatient unit has also become financially unviable.
Sue Ryder knows that inpatient care in a hospice setting remains the right choice for some patients and in order to ensure that need is met for the local community, the charity will continue to work closely with other local providers who are already delivering inpatient care.
Should a need arise for inpatient beds that cannot be supported within the county, Sue Ryder will look to offer beds for patients at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading.
Sue Ryder remains reliant on the generous fundraising support and from the local South Oxfordshire community and the charity looks forward to continuing to work in partnership with Oxfordshire CCG to ensure the delivery of excellent palliative care in South Oxfordshire.
* Poll of more than 2,000 members of the general public in July 2019. When given the choice of dying in a hospice, at hospital or at home, 73% stated they would prefer to die at home.