Heather Weir, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Hospice
Heather Weir, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Hospice

The Northern Ireland Hospice has called upon the Northern Ireland Executive to provide urgent supplies of necessary equipment and financial support to ensure the continuance of its vital palliative care services.

Chief Executive, Heather Weir, has highlighted that Hospice is experiencing difficulties accessing protective equipment for both the Adult and Children’s Hospice and warned that cancelled fundraising events coupled with reduced footfall at Hospice shops as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak could see Hospice income reduced by up to £10m by the end of 2020.

She said:

“Whilst this is only the beginning of the fight against Coronavirus in Northern Ireland, we are already facing significant equipment shortages and economic pressures in addition to dealing with the challenging clinical complications that Covid 19 is presenting.

“This pandemic could see income to sustain services drastically reduce without immediate Government intervention.

“In light of the urgent need to address these important issues, I have personally written to our First and Deputy First Ministers outlining the package of support that we need to enable Hospice to continue delivering its essential services to those with life limiting conditions in their homes and in our specialist facilities.”

The five direct asks of Government are:

  1. Provision of all necessary personal protective equipment and associated training for our staff to help us play our part in sustain services together with the HSC
  2. A package of funding support to include immediate access to an interest free loan fund, up to £10M,to help the charity withstand the financial pressures of Covid 19, including cancellation of fundraising events, reduced income from our retail shops and closure of our learning academy.
  3. Time to Pay – suspension of payments on all taxes and pension contributions to support cashflow
  4. Continuance of all transformation funding due to expire on 31 March 2020 for Children’s Hospice perinatal and end of life care
  5. Immediate payment of funds to address the inequality of funding for local Hospice services and staff, bringing Government funding up to 50/50 payment for both Adults and Children’s Hospice (£1.15M gap for 2019/20 and £1.9M gap for 2020/21)

NI Hospice calls on Government for immediate actionHeather continued:

“Today our stock of personal protective equipment became critically low, we put a call out on social media and have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people and businesses who can supply such equipment. However, this is not a long-term solution.

“Without Personal Protective Equipment we will have no option but to transfer Hospice patients who present symptoms associated with Covid 19 to mainstream services thus adding further pressure to the health system.”

Heather continued:

“I am indebted to our local communities who time and time again respond to our calls for help, however the Covid-19 pandemic will unfortunately see these donations plummet. 

“These are worrying times and looking forward I know that every person in Northern Ireland will be thinking about how they pay their bills and support their families. Asking people to fundraise for Hospice at this time is something I’m very mindful of, and whilst the public have continued to raise the vital funds to fill the 50:50 gap from government, they can’t be expected to continue to do this during this pandemic.

“The NI Executive needs to act now and support the measures I have sought their help with.”

The Northern Ireland Hospice and Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice require in excess of £15.5m to deliver their services each year. In 2019 approximately £4m of this was funded by Government with the remaining £11.5m generated through corporate support, retail shops and fundraising activities.

Heather concluded:

“Over 4000 adults and children, and their families, are dependent on our services every year, with demand increasing year on year. Our goal is therefore to keep these services fully operational and to provide care that promotes dignity and compassion for local adults, children and babies approaching the end of life.

“We therefore strongly urge the Executive to take swift action in securing the vital services provided by the Hospice continue.”