'We have been stretched to capacity': Urgent plea to save Leeds hospice providing vital end-of-life care

Bosses at a vital Leeds hospice that has cared for patients for more than 40 years have made an urgent plea for funding to save it from closure.

By Rebecca Marano
Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 6:00 am

Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice in Headingley has struggled financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the country, forcing it to close shops and cancel crucial fundraising events.

Now the charity, which operates hospices around the country after being founded by Leeds woman Sue Ryder in 1953, has warned that will be forced to close its palliative care base in Headingley and stop caring for people in their own homes “within months” if emergency funds are not found.

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Elaine Hill, director of Wheatfields, said the prospect of the hospice closing was "unthinkable"

Elaine Hill, director of Wheatfields, said the prospect of the hospice closing was "unthinkable".

She told the YEP: "These are such difficult and challenging times for us all at the hospice.

"We have had to completely change our way of working and caring for people to ensure everyone's safety at all times.

"It is unthinkable to imagine Wheatfields not being able to carry out the work that we do in the future."

Heidi Travis, Sue Ryder’s chief executive, said the charity has been calling on the Government “to support us but no funding has materialised” - and it has now appealed to the public to step in and save it from closure.

The YEP has been supporting the hospice since 1982, when it launched its 'Half and Half' appeal.

More than £3m has been raised for the YEP’s appeal, which splits the money equally between the Sue Ryder hospice and St Gemma's Hospice in Moortown.

Thousands of people across the city have made contributions to help keep the city’s hospices running, often in memory of their loved ones.

Now the charity is asking for the community's help once again as it battles to stay open.

Nicola Clayforth, a nurse at Wheatfields, said: "We are facing a huge challenge in the next few weeks.

"For the very first time we are finding ourselves in the position where we might not be able to afford to continue providing end of life care.

"We are so very proud of the work we do, the expert care we give and the vital support we provide to the NHS, thanks to our generous supporters.

"Today, we find ourselves needed more than ever before. It is devastating to think we might not be able to continue.

"I cannot imagine what our patients would do without us.

"If we can raise enough money to help us get through the next few weeks we stand a chance. It will make all the difference."

Before the outbreak of Covid-19, statutory funding covered a third of the charity's end-of-life care costs.

The rest came from fundraising and income from its 450 charity shops.

Sue Ryder said it anticipates a £12 million funding gap over the next three months.

The charity had originally asked the government for support but now have turned to the public out of "desperation".

Heidi Travis, Sue Ryder chief executive, said: "We have been calling on the government to support us but no funding has materialised.

"The country will lose its hospices at a time when they are needed most.

"This is a plea and no less, we cannot wait any longer.

"Our doctors and nurses are working night and day to provide end-of-life care to more people now and in the coming weeks, than ever before.

"We are a critical frontline support service in the fight against coronavirus yet we are on the brink of closure.

"We are all facing something we have never faced before and we are asking the public to give whatever you can afford to help us to help those who need it most."

Ms Hill said: "Our staff are facing so many challenges. We don't have the correct personal protective equipment and with staff self-isolating, we have been stretched to capacity.

"Not being able to comfort or hug patients and our families is so hard for the nurses.

"It goes against everything we have ever strived to do, which is provide the best possible end of life experience for those we look after.

"I am so proud of the staff at Wheatfields for facing this challenge head-on.

"We have asked them to go the extra mile in recent weeks and they have stepped up to the mark incredibly.

"I am very proud of the team here who have always gone above and beyond but especially so now.

"I would urge anyone that can donate to our emergency fundraising appeal to do so so that we can continue providing care and support to people when they need us most"

To donate to Sue Ryder please visit www.sueryder.org/donate

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