Funding change puts future of Catholic hospice at risk
Publication Date: 2017-01-13
St Margaret of Scotland Hospice asks for help in fight for survival
Catholics are being urged to rally in support of St Margaret of Scotland Hospice in Clydebank after new rules on government funding of palliative care threatened its future.
A statement released this week on Facebook by the hospice, Scotland’s largest and oldest, said they faced a ‘crisis’ and begged supporters to attend a public meeting next week to fight to protect its future.
The special meeting of West Dunbartonshire Council was called as it emerged new regulation could see some people having to pay for their care at the hospice. Plans to means test patient ability to pay could contradict the hospice’s charity status, which is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax relief and is contingent on its care being free to all.
The 60-bed hospice is currently funded through a mixture of charitable activity and financial support from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Unique among hospices in Scotland, St Margaret’s provides medical beds in addition to palliative care. However the Greater Glasgow health board are to now reclassify these as care beds. As a result, the hospice would be funded by a new body responsible for the funding of care homes, and people using its services could be means tested to see if they could afford to contribute to the costs.
Independent councillor Denis Agnew, who called the January 18 meeting, said forcing the hospice to accept means testing would ‘destroy part of the hospice’s ethos.’
“These were the principles of the Daughters of Charity who founded it 66 years ago,” he said. “To provide help without discrimination; to be open to all regardless of religion or riches.”
He said that the heart of the problem was that guidelines were being interpreted in a way that classed the hospice as a care home when ‘it’s clearly a special case.’
“No other hospice in Scotland faces this issue,” he said. “St Margaret’s has consistently been given the highest ratings for its standards of care, but it doesn’t fit into a one size fits all model. I just hope people rally around the hospice as they have done in the past and it is not treated as a political football.”
Local MSP Gil Paterson said he’d continue to raise the issue with the Scottish Government, adding that the hospice faced ‘being caught in the middle’ of two funding models.
“The hospice has an outstanding record at every level when it comes to the delivery of the 60 beds it provides,” he said. “It does it so well I would want this resource used, not just to save it for saving sake, but to benefit society in general and in the future.”
Mr Paterson also urged the hospice’s supporters to ‘attend the special West Dunbartonshire Council meeting on St Margaret of Scotland Hospice.’
“A show of support for the hospice would be very much welcomed, given the historic dedication it has to serving the people of Clydebank and beyond,” he said. Both West Dunbartonshire Council and the Scottish Government have said they wish to see the hospice remain open and retain its charitable status, raising hopes a solution may be found.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow praised St Margaret’s at a recent celebration to mark the hospice’s 65th anniversary.
“Scotland had benefited richly from the work of St Margaret’s Hospice caring for the sick and dying, and giving witness to the dignity of the human person from the very beginning of their life to its end, carrying on the healing mission of Jesus Christ, and following his command to love and serve one another,” he said.
The hospice’s many supporters are keen to do all they can to help the hospice survive.
“The standard of care delivered by the hospice team is second to none,” David Brunton said on Facebook. “The hospice team are there for every family that has had a loved one who has spent time at St Margaret of Scotland Hospice. It is now our responsibility to step up to the mark and give our support back.”
Supporters of the hospice are being urged to attend a rally being held before the special council meeting at 4.15pm on January 18 at Clydebank Town Hall, Hall Street, Clydebank.
—This story ran in full in the January 13 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.