Around 20 jobs to go as Saint Francis Hospice moves to save £900k after Covid-19 funding hit

Pam Court, chief executive of Saint Francis Hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Pam Court, chief executive of Saint Francis Hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

Around 20 jobs are set to go at Saint Francis Hospice in a bid to save almost £1million following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

St Francis Hospice Chief Executive Pam Court

St Francis Hospice Chief Executive Pam Court - Credit: Archant

The charity’s chief executive, Pam Court, said the proposals have been put forward in a bid to safeguard its frontline services following losses in income from the cancellation of fundraising events and the temporary closure of its charity shops.

The Havering-atte-Bower hospice provides care and support for people with life-limiting illnesses and Ms Court admitted that savings of around £900,000 had been earmarked.

She added that more than £600,000 has already been accounted for through removing 12 vacant posts and reducing expenditure, while a further £300-400,000 will need to come through up to nine voluntary redundancies and staff offering to reduce hours.

Ms Court said she expected these job losses to come from areas such as corporate departments and a very small number of compulsory redundancies were a possibility.

St Francis Hospice Chief Executive Pam Court

St Francis Hospice Chief Executive Pam Court - Credit: Archant

She added: “I feel I must take some costs out of the hospice so that we can try to absolutely protect the frontline services. Because our services are what we do - that’s what we’re about.

“I’ve tried to protect staff wherever possible. We want a sustainable hospice - we want the hospice to be here for generations to come in the future.

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“I am not saying this isn’t impacting on people and staff are bound to be concerned but we are trying to have as minimal impact on staff as we can but keep running the services.”

The hospice, which employs 260 staff and has 1,000 volunteers, has to generate around 75% of the £12.5m costs needed to run it annually, something Ms Court admitted is a struggle each year.

It furloughed 85 staff during the pandemic and received £1m in support from the Government but this has not stopped the need for the savings.

The hospice has seen a fall in fundraising income, with events such as the London Marathon being cancelled. Ms Court estimated the drop has been around £130,000 a month and profits from its 16 charity shops, which total around £200,000 monthly, were lost while they were closed.

“Deep down I am still confident we can get to where we want to be but not if I take no action,” she said. “If I were to just hope it would improve, I think we would be in a worse situation.”

Many of the charity shops, which are spread across east London and Essex, have now reopened but Ms Court felt they would struggle to replicate pre-Covid levels of sales, adding that a review of their performance will take place in November. She said: “We are looking at a potentially different business model of opening an online shop. Come November, we may need to consider if we can keep up all the leases on all these stores. But they are not even fully opened yet.

“Many of our volunteers had to shield because they are over 70 so they are gradually coming back but things like our stores rely on us having a high number of volunteers so I think by November we will have a better feel.”

Despite the issues, the hospice has been “busier than ever”, she added.

Community services such as Hospice at Home have seen referrals increase by 30pc on this time a year ago.

“We have got an increased demand for our care at the same time where we have got income going down.”

The Recorder reported at the end of March that the hospice was urgently appealing for the public’s help and Ms Court said she was thankful for the support received.

But she admitted that donations raised from this had failed to compensate for the losses coming from fundraising and shop closures, confirming that more appeals are likely to be made in the future.

Asked for her message to the public, she urged people to “support, donate, volunteer and help”.

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How hospice started: Page 22. Hospice column: Page 14