Update from the Chief Executive
Keeping St Catherine’s Sustainable
St Catherine’s aim for 2014/15 is ‘to help more people facing life-shortening illness have quality of life and dignity in death’. In seeking to achieve this it is vital that we are sustainable – an ever increasing challenge amidst recession in the NW, limited public funding and intense competition from other local and national charities. These are challenging times so we have to be as determined as those pioneers who founded St Catherine’s to overcome difficulties and make opportunities to achieve our aim.
Balancing the books
Work to maintain and increase income has never been more intense and includes working with NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to fund services more effectively as we work with local partners to, amongst other things, enable more people to stay in their own homes for longer. Alongside our well established portfolio of fundraising activity, new efforts to increase charitable income have included transforming our profile in social media, strengthening community involvement in a variety of ways including new volunteering opportunities, enhanced promotion of gifts in wills and regular giving campaigns.
We have developed many more events and are delighted that our 2-night open air summer concert this year includes Katherine Jenkins and James Blunt. We are also preparing for our 30th anniversary in 2015. With other NW hospices we are pleased to be involved in some exciting partnership initiatives including a joint television campaign delivered very economically.
In addition, like most healthcare organisations, we are constantly reviewing the impact and sustainability of our services and some difficult decisions have had to be taken. Since the recession began, St Catherine’s, like other healthcare organisations, has been working hard to maintain the impact of services whilst balancing the books. Most of this has involved a wide range of activity to improve efficiency, avoid unnecessary waste and reduce costs. For example, through new ways of conserving energy without compromising patient care, reducing printing, postage and other administrative costs, increased on-line activity, tendering more competitively, making savings on running costs such as through IP telephones, equipment discounts for charities, and so on.
However, as in most healthcare organisations, our primary expenditure is on staff, so savings have also included controlling salary levels, not filling some vacancies and, unfortunately, making a small number of redundancies. This is not what we would wish for but we have to recognise that although St Catherine’s is a very special charity it is also a business that must be financially viable if we are to continue our work.
Our recent review of services involved thorough consultation with staff and detailed scrutiny by the Board. The resulting loss of a small number of posts has been difficult for all concerned but thanks to determined efforts along with other savings, these reductions have been on a much lower scale than those in hospitals, councils and businesses. The majority have been in non-clinical services but have also included our artist and chaplain. To ensure continuity, staff and volunteers are pulling together strongly and adjusting to new ways of working.
For example, an ordained member of the Board is working with our Family Support Team of experienced social workers, who also have counselling qualifications, to coordinate spiritual care. Clinical excellence guidelines recognise that formal religion may be one means of expressing spirituality, but it is a much broader concept and may not always be expressed in religious ways. Our approach, similar to a number of hospices, recognises variety of need and the importance of openness and inclusivity. The Family Support Team is coordinating work with staff, volunteers and representatives from local religious organisations. In making this change we have been delighted with renewed interest from faith groups including for Easter services. The holistic wellbeing of patients and families will always be a priority at St Catherine’s.
A bold new step
In considering potential savings and new income, the Board came to the conclusion a few years ago that we would have to transform our business if we are to be sustainable in the long term. A bold new step would be needed to enhance our ability to meet current and future challenges of increasing need for hospice care in a sustainable way. It was a big ‘ask’ but a challenge that we were up for!
The resulting ‘bold new step’ that we are taking, emerged from research into end of life care needs by Charlie Leadbeater (commissioned by Help the Hospices), St Joseph’s Hospice innovative ‘Finding Space’ project, and from the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care. Our project aims to transform interest in, and accessibility to, hospice care, whilst at the same time strengthening our income through new community involvement.
Supported by Department of Health capital funding, the Hospice is refurbishing an old barn 200 metres from the main building on the site of a former cotton mill. It will be called ‘The Mill at St Catherine’s Park’, and will include a café and information centre on the ground floor and informal therapy and activity rooms on the first floor.
The Mill will provide a relaxed place for patients, discharged and potential patients, families, bereaved relatives, volunteers, supporters and ‘passers-by’. It will be a new informal addition to our existing hospice services that require appointments and referral from a clinician. The Mill will help dispel common fears and myths about hospice care and will feel non-medical and ‘normal’, which is what many of our patients wish for, partly because the café will be open to the public and partly because people can come and go as they please.
Information and light-touch therapies will assist people to self-manage their situations as much as possible and help people become more aware of how to assist friends and neighbours experiencing life-shortening illness. With fewer public services available, communities need to pull together more than ever, so The Mill is being developed as an accessible community resource that will also support Lancashire’s ‘Connecting for Life’ initiative.
The project opens up entirely new possibilities for involvement and interest in St Catherine’s through the café ‘hub’ and activities that The Mill and surrounding ground development will offer. This is vital because it is neither fair nor realistic to keep asking our loyal and generous supporters to give more and more when their own resources have been heavily dented by the recession. So, as well as making income from refreshment sales and room hire, it is intended that the project will interest a whole army of new supporters through its diverse range of activities.
The full title of the project is The Mill at St Catherine’s Park because surrounding ground developments include new paths in a wetland setting for gentle walking and reflection, a sensory garden and new environmental activity. Funds are being sought from various trusts and, in particular, we are working with the Environment Agency, a local Council, Rotary clubs, the Wildlife Trust, local schools and colleges. The Park will make St Catherine’s much more open, accessible and ‘geographically’ integrated with surrounding communities. It will also help take away the unwanted mystique of hospice care, and overcome the isolation that patients sometimes feel.
An interesting aspect to this project is its link to a proposed First World War Centenary Memorial that is being explored by our local Council on land close by. If developed it could include a sculpture, replicas of Great War trenches and a footpath leading directly into St Catherine’s Park. This would link historical lessons about the tragic losses of 1914-1918 with losses from life-shortening illnesses that people are experiencing today and, as a consequence, would be attractive to schools, colleges and local interest groups.
Back to the future
This major project can be described as ‘back to the future’ because we are stepping out, in a similar way to those first pioneering days, to take us forward on a more sustainable basis. As before, we are working to make care for those facing life-shortening illness more accessible through the inspiration, involvement and commitment of local people. Of course this venture is a calculated risk but like the founders of St Catherine’s in the 1980s, we too must show courage and belief in our commitment to serve the people of Central Lancashire.
The Mill at St Catherine’s Park will open in autumn 2014 and we look forward to seeing you there.
April 24th 2014
Share with your friends!