‘We need this campaign to help with running costs’

St John's Hospice Chief executive, Sue McGraw.
St John's Hospice Chief executive, Sue McGraw.

Appearances can be deceiving. That’s the message from St John’s Hospice chief executive Sue McGraw as a new building takes shape on the charity’s Slyne Road site.

It may give the impression that all is rosy for the hospice but the work has been funded by a specific grant from the Department of Health.

Sue insists the charity isn’t spending money is doesn’t have and then asking the public to foot the bill through Save Our Hospice, as the Lancaster Guardian and sister newspaper The Visitor aim to raise £500,000 over the next 12 months to preserve the long-term future of the vital community facility.

Sue said: “There’s a mixed message when we have a campaign saying we’re struggling and people drive up and down the A6 and there’s building work going on.

“This is not the hospice saying we’ve got no money and we’re building and it’s costing a fortune.

“That build as you see it has not cost us a penny and has been completed funded by NHS England.”

When invited to apply for a slice of the cash pot Sue says hospices even told the Government that what they really needed was help with the costs of keeping the charities open, day in, day out, not capital funding.

That is why the Save Our Hospice campaign is so important.

She said: “Every now and again the Department of Health provide a grant for all hospices to apply for and last year every member hospice was invited to apply for a pot of money.

“We said at the time that the thing hospices need are running costs, but they want to leave a legacy so it had to be for a capital programme, you had to build something.

“It paid for building and some work on our gardens, including the carpets and furniture.

“The only thing they won’t pay for is running costs.

“Anybody who gives money to the campaign will pay for nurses, lights, heating and everything like that.”

The work includes a new permanent home for their palliative care and end of life hub that will see the 24-hour operation move from a small office into a new space on the extended second floor.

There will also be a more relaxed family liaison room for less formal appointments.

A new contemplative area will also be built into the garden for quiet reflection time to cater for people who don’t want to use the hospice chapel.

The charity didn’t however get all the money it applied for meaning the local community can still help finish off the improvements. Sue said: “We asked for a certain amount of money and we only got 68 per cent of it.

“We had to cut things out so there are still some things we need to finish it off.

“One of the most important is a lift. When we looked at what we could cut out of the project, to make it 68 per cent worth of what we needed we cut the lift because we thought that was something we could fundraise for.

“So if there are any companies that provide lifts who could come and donate one ideally, or do one at a really cost effective price we want to hear from them.

“Because clearly when you have a space for families and patients it’s important they can get to the second floor.

“That was the last push that we didn’t have the money for. A lift would be brilliant.”